Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'd Love To Turn You On #49 - Gabor Szabo - The Sorcerer/More Sorcery

Gypsy jazz goes psychedelic.  That's the short explanation of the work of Hungarian-born guitar master Gabor Szabo.  Szabo was both in touch with the traditions of the past and the exciting possibilities of the mid-60s.  This made him a natural fit for the great jazz label Impulse!  The adventurous label had been putting out groundbreaking jazz sides for several years when Szabo came aboard.  His two live albums from 1967, The Sorcerer and More Sorcery have recently been reissued as a twofer CD, part of an extensive series of Impulse! reissues.  Szabo and his crew run through an eclectic selection of pop hits, jazz standards and original compositions.
The Sorcerer leads off with a funky take on Sonny & Cher's hit "The Beat Goes On."  It's a great way to start off, giving the listener something familiar and then taking it to bold new directions.  The following track, "Little Boat," adds a Latin vibe and features a stunning break from the percussion team of Marty Morell and Hal Gordon.  Morell and Gordon shine throughout, as do bassist Lajos Kabok and rhythm guitarist Jimmy Stewart.  But Szabo is the real star and he really gets to show his chops on two originals, "Space" and "Mizrab."  "Space," as the title implies, is a truly psychedelic affair, fully in touch with the spirit of the times.  The eastern flavored "Mizrab" has some remarkable guitar work, at times similar to the live sound of the Velvet Underground.
More Sorcery is not as successful as its predecessor, yet still has some great moments.   The extended original "Los Matadoros" provides room for the whole ensemble to stretch out and explore.  Yet the real special performance is a fantastic take on "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."  This was recorded just a few months after The Beatles has unleashed Sgt Pepper on the world and Szabo proves himself firmly in touch with their visionary pop music.  The song is expanded in a natural and appropriate way, adding a new dimension to what was already being seen as a masterpiece.
Gabor Szabo is rarely mentioned among the jazz greats or guitar heroes.  However, his work is truly special for those who take the time to discover it.  This generous collection is a great first step.
- Adam Reshotko

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