Sunday, February 4, 2018

Gabor Szabo - 1967 [1997] "The Sorcerer"

The Sorcerer is a live album by Hungarian jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó featuring performances recorded in 1967 for the Impulse! label.

Gabor Szabo's quintet featuring Jimmy Stewart was one of the guitarist's very best units. Live performances like this, recorded at Boston's Jazz Workshop, document some of the excitement the group stirred in 1967-1968. Included in the 1997 CD reissue are three excellent tracks ("Los Matadoros," "People," and "Corcovado") recorded at the same concert, which originally appeared on More Sorcery. The playing seems inspired, and the interplay within the group is something to behold -- even when performing lightweight tunes like "The Beat Goes On."

Hungarian guitarist Szabo got his start with drummer Chico Hamilton (who also discovered Eric Dolphy and Charles Lloyd, among others), but was soon off on his own with a unique hybrid of jazz improv and a twang reminiscent of surf guitar. By the 1970s he had descended into Donovan and Carpenters covers (and even those are pretty groovy in a hip-kitsch manner), but this CD combines two LPs that captured him live at his 1967 peak. Well, there is a Sonny and Cher tune, but it's a good one. Also featured is a second guitarist, Jimmy Stewart, and the meshing Eastern-tinged comping of the two is as hypnotic as the title.

My introduction to Gabor Szabo was back in the late 1960s when the older brother of a girlfriend turned me on to his music and the music of a great many others. I was only twelve or thirteen at the time, but even at that age could see that this was something special.
Over the years, I ended up buying this album and a few other early Szabo albums and even had the good fortune to see him perform live at the Boojum Tree in Phoenix in the mid-70s.
I hadn't listened in years, however, until recently a friend I was visiting had it on his CD player.
Ah! The memories it brought back! When I got home, I ordered it here and when it arrived the music instantly transported me back to those halcyon days of long ago. My favorites here are Little Boat, Lou-ise, Space, Mizrab, and the magnificent Spanish-tinged tour de force, Los Matodoros. Szabo's play is redolent of the mysteries of the Old World and with Jimmy Stewart playing in counterpoint to him, your listening pleasure is doubled.
Though I agree with some of the reviewers that The Beat Goes On, People, and Corcovado are cheesy, their inclusion on this CD does not detract from its five-star rating. Those who know the music of Szabo know he had an odd fondness for some songs that have no musical merit but there is less of that kind of pap here than on some of his later recordings.
Anyone who is enjoys jazz or simply great guitar playing should be interested in hearing this. The Sorcerer epitomizes late 60s jazz and that makes it an essential addition to any serious fan's CD library.

The first fusion recordings are atributed to Miles Davis' late sixties quintet with Wayne Shorter, and perhaps this is correct, but the jazz/rock/world music (Brazilian/Spanish/Indian) brew that Gabor Szabo was concocting in this 1960's session cannot be overlooked as something inconsequential. It's not only Szabo's pop/rock leanings but his approach to playing the guitar which should assure his inclusion among the pioneers of the musical genre that was later to be called fusion. He often uses sound effects and drone tones as well as chords and single-note techniques that were quite outside the standard jazz vocabulary of the time. Aside from that the record is thick with the late 60's atmosphere - I can just picture a smoky coffee house filled with smells of coffee, cigarette smoke and incense. It is no surprise that Carlos Santana quotes Szabo as one his earliest influences.

Some songs meander meaninglessly without developing a cohesive solo, but there are some others with some nicely done solos as well. He does a great job on the bossa novas - some people will say they are cheesy, but you have to remember that in the sixties, bossas were absolutely in vogue, and therefore super cool.

A nice album that will definetly appeal more to the fusion fans than jazz purists.

Time is a funny thing. Dig, today a lot of folks don’t know his name, but back in the day, Hungarian gypsy guitarist Gabor Szabo was The Guy. His crystalline, single-note bursts of emotional swing and baroquely romantic effluence made him a latter-day Django. An immensely popular guitarist, Szabo’s music was the soundtrack of choice for the hip ’70s careerist. At first, known only to the jazz world, Szabo was elevated into the larger pop consciousness with his album The Sorcerer. A beguiling blend of eastern motifs, Old World noblesse oblige and ripe drama, The Sorcerer was recorded at Boston’s legendary Jazz Workshop with his working quartet (Jimmy Smith, guitar; Louis Kabok, bass; Marty Morell, drums; Hal Gordon, percussion). Convincing proof that it is high high time for a major reappraisal of Gabor Szabo’s works.

Track listing:

Recorded at The Jazz Workshop in Boston, Massachusetts on April 14 & 15, 1967

"The Beat Goes On" (Sonny Bono) - 4:52
"Little Boat (O Barquinho)" (Ronaldo Bôscoli, Roberto Menescal) - 4:23
"Lou-Ise" (Jimmy Stewart) - 4:17
"What Is This Thing Called Love?" (Cole Porter) - 5:18
"Space" - 6:40
"Stronger Than Us" (Francis Lai, Pierre Barough) - 4:13
"Mizrab" - 6:58
"Comin' Back" (Clyde Otis, Gábor Szabó) 1:56
"Los Matadoros" - 12:09 (Bonus track on CD reissue)
"People" (Jule Styne, Bob Merrill) - 5:18 (Bonus track on CD reissue)
"Corcovado" (Antônio Carlos Jobim) - 3:22 (Bonus track on CD reissue)

Personnel:

Gábor Szabó - guitar
Jimmy Stewart - guitar
Lajos "Louis" Kabok - bass
Marty Morell – drums
Hal Gordon - percussion

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