1967 - 1969
|This is the most
consistent -- and, perhaps, most memorable -- period in Gabor Szabo's
musical evolution. The guitarist formed a working quintet, steadied by
bassist Louis Kabok and percussionist Hal Gordon and significantly fueled
by the multifaceted talents of guitarist Jimmy Stewart. The quintet format
became Szabo's preferred and most ideal situation -- whether in
performance or in the studio. Coincidentally, the associations listed here
were often recorded in the studio as well -- which is unusual throughout
much of Szabo's career. Of the listings below, the drummer is usually the
only change to personnel.
Quartet (early 1967): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy
Stewart (g); Al Stinson (b); Jim Keltner (d).
In setting out to establish a new musical
identity, Szabo in early 1967 not only formed one of his more innovative
and influential working groups, he forged one of the most positive and
powerful musical alliances of his career. The addition of prodigiously
talented and accomplished guitarist Jimmy Stewart (born James Otto
Stewart, September 8, 1937) to Szabo's group was to have a profoundly
successful effect on Szabo. "I met Gabor at the Hungry I," says Stewart,
a San Francisco native who spent much of his teenage years playing at
the Bay area night spot. "But it was Gene DiNovi, Lena Horne's longtime
pianist, who suggested to both Gabor and I that we should play together.
Later Gene set up a meeting for me and Gabor in Sparks, Nevada. I was a
musical director at the time. Even though I'd already played with people
like Earl "Fatha" Hines, I didn't have anything to bring him to say,
'here's what I can do.' But from the very beginning we seemed to hit it
off. After two songs he asked me to be in the band. He said that he
couldn't offer me the money I was making. But I didn't care about that."
Stewart and Szabo had an immediate
chemistry, as if of one mind and evident in the first notes they played
together. "At the first rehearsal," Stewart explains, "we had Jimmy
Keltner, Albert Stinson, me and Gabor. I'll never forget one of the
songs we played was 'Tarantula' from the Chico days. That's quite a
number. I had to learn to play it on the spot. It was crazy. Leonard
Feather was there. He went nuts. I could play off Gabor so well, I
didn't have to think about it. It was just like falling off a log with
me." The new quartet performed only several shows at Shelly's Manne Hole
in Los Angeles before bassist Albert Stinson departed. Stinson
eventually went on to play in Larry Coryell's group. He died in his
sleep at age 24 while on tour with Coryell in 1969.
Quartet (early 1967): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy
Stewart (g); Louis Kabok (b); Jim Keltner (d).
Stinson was replaced by Louis Kabok, a
classically-trained bassist and former Szabo musical associate in
Hungary and in Szabo's first American group, the Three Strings. "That
was one heck of a band," recalls Stewart. "I always thought of it as a
true gypsy band. The three of us, Gabor, Louis and I, could sit down and
create a song on the spot. We were known for it. Gabor could do it
instinctively. There was such an area for invention. The core and the
seeds would spring between the three of us. It was just like Django
Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France. We could do anything; pop, rock,
even a Bartok concerto, Kodaly, Kodi. This was the music they heard in
Europe; the way we've always heard pop music here. With that tremendous
background and my classical and jazz training I could fit right in
there. Sometimes we'd be with Louis' time. Sometimes we'd be in Gabor's
time. Others it was mine. We could think of things in terms of form and
we could really make the audience understand it. I got used to it...the
surprise and the invention."
Gabor Szabo Quintet
(March 1967): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart(g);
Louis Kabok (b); Jim Keltner (d); Hal Gordon (per).
Hal Gordon was added on percussion and in
March 1967 the group began appearing at West Coast clubs like the
Trident in Sausalito and Marty's and the Manne Hole in Los Angeles. Even
while Szabo evinced a preference for string-based jazz groupings early
on, this particular unit -- buoyed by Jimmy Stewart's chameleon-like
abilities to mimic, offer counterpoint or comp with great sensitivity --
established a strong identity for Szabo and created a genuine and
memorable excitement on stage. In reviewing a Trident performance the
following year, critic John L. Wasserman pointed out that the band was
unusual in "(f)irst, its instrumentation -- strings and percussion only.
Second, it is the only group that comes to mind which uses both an
electric and an acoustic guitar. Last it has a very contemporary sound
which is neither avant-garde or heavily rock-influenced."
But it was quite clearly Stewart who gave
Szabo's unique voice a new personality. "The quintet features Szabo's
own minor-key tone poems but also plays rich ballads and some wonderful
Brazilian things," wrote Phillip Ellwood, in a review of one of the
first Trident performances, adding that the difference here was the
invention and interplay between the two guitarists. "The two of them
work beautifully as a team, swapping the lead line and occasionally
providing the performance's high points with magnificent duet
improvisations." Stewart's classical chord structures and tremendously
fluid runs found ideal counterpoint in Szabo's amplified single-lined
jabs and feedback frolics. As a result, Szabo was accorded with the
highest regard he was to achieve during his career.
At Marty's, a newly-opened club in Los
Angeles that seated 400 and offered excellent acoustics, the Szabo
quintet was caught and reviewed for the April 9, 1967, Down Beat.
Featured songs included "Autumn Leaves," "Spellbinder," "Comin' Back"
and Szabo's extended single-string solo on "What is This Thing Called
(Shelly's Manne Hole; Los Angeles: 1967):
Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart(g); Louis Kabok (b); Dick Berk (d);
Hal Gordon (per).
The quintet was caught at one of its first
performances (with Dick Berk in the drummer's chair) at Shelly's Manne
Hole by Leonard Feather. In his Los Angeles Times column Feather
aptly noted "the unusual instrumentation of this group has established
an identity that strongly reflects Szabo's personality -- the rhapsodic
gypsy musical background of his native Hungary and the diversity of
other disciplines he has picked up along the way." While clearly
impressed with the band's performance and Szabo's multiple fusions,
Feather worried that Szabo "has all but renounced the straighter,
head-swinging sounds that once inspired him." Still, critics --
including Feather -- seemed dazzled and audiences were bewitched.
(May 1967): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy
Stewart(g); Louis Kabok (b); Johnny Rae (d); Hal Gordon (per).
Los Angeles Jazz Festival at UCLA's Pauley
Pavilion (May 12, 13 and 14, 1967): Over three days in May 1967, Gary
McFarland was featured in several aggregates (May 12: Gary McFarland
conducts the Los Angeles Jazz Festival Orchestra - featuring Ray Brown,
May 13: Gary McFarland conducts the Los Angeles Jazz Festival Orchestra -
featuring Bob Brookmeyer and May 14: Gary McFarland conducts the Los
Angeles Jazz Festival Orchestra - featuring Clark Terry & Zoot Sims)
performing "JAZZ at UCLA". On the afternoon of May 14, it is said that
there was a performance of Gary McFarland's Raga
Jazz Ensemble - Featuring Gabor Szabo. The event also featured
Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and one of John Coltrane and his New Group's
last performances. The concerts were produced by "Monterey's Jimmy
(June 20-25, 1967): Gabor Szabo,
Jimmy Stewart (g); Louis Kabok (b); Chuck Christian (d); Hal Gordon
During what was referred to as "Opening the
Fillmore: Summer Sonics," this was the quintet wherein Szabo (second
billed) - and the Jimi Hendrix Experience (as opening act) - preceded
the Jefferson Airplane at San Francisco's famed Fillmore Auditorium.
According to guitarist Jimmy Stewart, Jefferson Airplane had to cancel a
few of these dates and Janis Joplin filled in. Bill Graham briefly
refers to this presentation in his 1992 book, Bill Graham
Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out (see Bibliography). Jefferson
Airplane biographer Jeff Tamarkin also mentions this week of concerts in
his 2003 book Got A Revoultion! (pp 141-142).
(Newport Jazz Festival: July 1, 1967): Gabor
Szabo, Jimmy Stewart (g); Louis Kabok (b); Bill Goodwin Jr. (d); Hal
Gordon (per). See FIVE FACES OF JAZZ.
As of this writing,
Szabo's performance at this concert is available at
Wolfgang's Vault to stream (free) or download. (Special thanks
to Marc Baranowski for noting this.)
Gabor Szabo Quintet
(July 1967): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart(g);
Louis Kabok (b); Marty Morell (d); Hal Gordon (per).
The Szabo quintet (presumably with Marty
Morell on drums) performs at the White House night club in Minneapolis
on July 27, 1967. According to the August 2 issue of Variety, the
group lacked showmanship, offering a 20-minute presentation of
"monotonous and colorless" material "unrelieved by anything resembling a
change of pace."
(September 7, 1967): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy
Stewart (g); Louis Kabok (b); Bill Goodwin Jr. (d); Hal Gordon
Alan Heineman hails Szabo's "unspectacular"
quintet in performance at the Plugged Nickel in Chicago (Down
Beat, September 7, 1967). Features include "Quiet Nights,"
"Witchcraft" and "Mizrab."
Quintet (Monterey Jazz Festival; Monterey,
California: September 17, 1967):
Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart (g); Louis Kabok (b);
Bill Goodwin (d); Hal Gordon (per). see MORE
Gabor Szabo Sextet
(Shelly's Manne Hole, Los Angeles: January,
1968): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart (g); Pete Candoli, Conte
Candoli (tp); Louis Kabok (b); Jim Keltner (d); Hal Gordon (per). see RECORDINGS.
Gabor Szabo Quintet
(early 1968): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart (g);
Louis Kabok (b); Tommy Lawrence (d); Hal Gordon (per).
A headline boasting "Szabo's unique sound"
began John L. Wasserman's review of an early-1968 performance of the
Szabo quintet at Sausilito's Trident club. The quintet, featuring Szabo,
Stewart, Kabok, Gordon and drummer Tommy Lawrence, was noted primarily
for its covers of "Witchcraft," "My Foolish Heart," "Manha de Carnival"
and "Paint it Black." "The sound," Wasserman wrote, "is a light,
mellifluous, rolling one; basically jazz with influences from Brazil,
Cuba, the East and Karlheinz Stockhausen(!)." Adding praise for the
percussionists and Kabok's adroit musicality, Wasserman noted that "the
main show is Szabo and Stewart...it is greatly satisfying to listen to
the two of them. The improvised question-answer, or statement-argument,
or point-counterpoint -- whatever it is called -- is beautifully done."
Cal Tjader and Gabor
Szabo (San Diego; 1968): Gabor Szabo (g); Cal
Tjader (vib); Hal Gordon, Armando Peraza (per).
Performing with Cal Tjader, Szabo is
pictured (among a collage of historic Tjader performances) playing with
Armando Peraza and Hal Gordon in San Diego, 1968, on the inner sleeve of
Tjader's third Skye recording, CAL TJADER PLUGS IN
(Skye SK10 (1969), DCC JAZZ DJZ622 [CD] (1995)). Szabo does not,
however, perform on the album nor does any recording of the two leaders
with their primary percussionists seem to exist. It is also interesting
to note that Szabo, Tjader and Gary McFarland -- the three principal
partners in the musician-owned Skye Recordings label -- are not known to
have ever performed together as part of a trio or larger aggregate.
Gabor Szabo Sextet
(June 1968): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart (g);
Louis Kabok (b); John Clauder (d); Lynn Blessing (vib); Hal Gordon
Gabor Szabo Quintet
(Museum of Modern Art: August 1, 1968): Gabor
Szabo, Jimmy Stewart (g); Louis Kabok (b); unknown (d); Hal Gordon
The Gabor Szabo Quintet performs at the
Museum of Modern Art in New York on August 1, 1968, as part of the
summer's "Jazz in the Garden" series which also featured the Jimmy
McGriff Trio and the Clark Terry Quintet.
(September 1968): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart
(g); Louis Kabok (b); Dick Bert (d); Hal Gordon (per).
Gabor Szabo Quartet
(October 1968): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart
(g); Dick Bert (d); Hal Gordon (per).
Jimmy Stewart left Szabo's group in late
1968 to debut a quartet of his own at Donte's Guitar Night in Los
Angeles. He went on to become a highly sought-after studio musician
(especially for singers like Andy Williams, Barbara Streisand, Ray
Charles). He later performed with Rod McKuen, taught guitar, initiated a
long-running and highly- regarded column for Guitar Player
magazine and composed works such as Concertina for Electric
Guitar and Orchestra, 12 Hommages for Classic Guitar, works for
string quartets and a sonata for solo violin. In addition to occasional
recordings (FIREFLOWER, a 1977 release on Catalyst
7621), Stewart went on to successfully publish more than 20 books. These
include Wes Montgomery Guitar Method, Evolution of Jazz Guitar,
Guitar for Songwriters, Ear Training for Guitarists, Sight Reading for
Guitarists, Contemporary Rhythm Playing and Chord Melody.
Stewart continued to perform occasionally
with Szabo in 1969 and throughout the seventies. The two officially
reunited in 1974 for the short-lived Perfect Circle project, but they
performed together on record only once more ("Estate" from 1977's FACES). Stewart, later
staged a tribute concert for Szabo after the Hungarian guitarist's death
in 1982. Stewart's 1986 album release, THE TOUCH
(Blackhawk BKH-50301-D), featured a significant composition called
"Gypsy '86," loosely based on Szabo's "Gypsy '66," a hypothetical
musical meeting of Szabo with Carlos Santana.
Gabor Szabo Quartet
(El Matador, San Francisco; February 4, 1969):
Gabor Szabo, Francois Vaz (g), Louis Kabok (b) and Al Cecchi
The April 17, 1969, Down Beat
reported that Szabo was beaten, stabbed and robbed of $300.00 by
three men as he was walking to his hotel after performing at San
Francisco's El Matador club during the early morning hours of February
4. Despite being stabbed repeatedly in the chest, Szabo was treated for
wounds and resumed work the following night at the El Matador. Most
likely drug related, the incident forced the guitarist to cancel the
remainder of his El Matador concerts. Szabo returned home to Los
Angeles, but his group -- Francois Vaz (g), Louis Kabok (b) and Al
Cecchi (d) -- finished out the engagement.
(Jazz By The Bay: International Sports Arena, San Diego, California:
August 1969): Gary Barone (tp); John Gross (ts); Mike Wofford (key);
Gabor Szabo (g); Dave Parlatto (b); Shelly Manne (d).
Harvey Siders reported in the September 4,
1969 issue of Down Beat that "Shelly Manne's new group caught
fire immediately. Shelly is justifiably proud of his quintet (Gary
Barone, trumpet; John Gross, tenor; Wofford, and Dave Parlatto subbing
for bassist John Heard). They keep him young with their exciting
excursions into the land of free. They stayed on to back Gabor Szabo,
who proved a great crowd-pleaser with Freddie Hubbard's "Little
Sunflower," predictably followed by his favorite ballad, "My Foolish
Heart." Strangely, with poor acoustics bugging everyone, Gabor's
feedback gimmickry never sounded better. It cut through the combo with
the persistence and body of a French Horn."
Stewart (October 1969): Gabor Szabo, Jimmy
Stewart (g); unknown b,d and poss. perc.