Gabor Szabo: The Sorcerer
There was excitement in the air on Boylston Street on the night of April 14, 1967. The sign outside the Jazz Workshop announced, “Live Recording Tonite!” Inside, the crew from Impulse Records was setting up to record the Gabor Szabo Quintet. Cables snaked out the door to a van parked out front, where producer Bob Thiele sat at the mixing board. If all went well, the session would produce guitarist Gabor Szabo’s first live recording, and his fourth album for Impulse in two years.
Gabor Szabo grew up in Budapest, where as a boy he heard the gypsies play. He saw Roy Rogers in a movie and knew he wanted to be a guitar player, but he forgot about cowboys when he heard jazz on the Voice of America. He fled Communist Hungary in 1956 as a refugee.
Szabo first settled in Los Angeles, coming east in 1958 to study at Berklee, one of its earliest international students. He studied guitar with Chet Kruley and arranging with Herb Pomeroy. The international contingent during Gabor’s two years at Berklee included pianists Toshiko Akiyoshi and Dizzy Sal, trombonist Mike Gibbs, drummer Petar Spassov, and arranger Arif Mardin.
Szabo played with the International Youth Band at Newport in 1958, with Dusko Gojkovic and Albert Mangelsdorff among others. He also worked with a Boston theater troupe, the Actors Company, on Charles Street. It is unclear if he provided musical accompaniment or actually tried his hand at acting. That’s a mystery to solve another day.
In 1960 Szabo returned to Los Angeles, where he scuffled for a time before joining drummer Chico Hamilton in 1962. Chico’s band was enormously influential in the early 1960s, and some consider it a west coast analog to Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Szabo was with Hamilton on and off for three years. Then Gabor worked with Gary McFarland, and then with his Hamilton bandmate, Charles Lloyd. He formed his own group in late 1966.
> Continue Reading