Live in rehearsal at Heatherside Studios, California: c. 1980
Gabor Szabo (g); Richard Thompson (p); Greg Lee (b); Bob Morin (d).
A fascinating document that catches Szabo in his last American performing aggregate. Again he surrounds himself with excellent musicians, but saddles them (here) with less-than-thrilling tunes. Both Richard Thompson and Bob Morin, whose excellence is weighted throughout by then-timely disco rhythms, are the source of success. In fact, Thompson even lends Szabo's "A Thousand Times" a classical feel. But the first take seems to find Thompson more leaden than Morin's aggressive drumming allows (again, excellent use of cymbals). The second take finds Thompson much more in the spirit; playing a long, beautifully crafted solo. Unfortunately, "A Thousand Times" is too much a product of its time (sounding something like Chick Corea's Return to Forever might have conceived) to be effective and suffers by the lack of excitement its bridge seems to promise. "Concorde" sounds positively jazzlike, moody and pensive, due to Thompson's ambidextrous piano artistry. "Magic Mystic Faces," fortunately forfeiting vocals, is an interesting surprise. The quartet give it an authentic ballad quality missing from the vinyl version. Thompson again shines. Szabo's Wes-like "Every Minute Counts" follows and, finally, the guitarist is inspired to (briefly) excel in a framework that Bob James practically patented.
Oddly, Szabo seems to helm this session more than actually participate in it; a trait, perhaps, common to (his own) rehearsals. Yet what survives on tape here is ample evidence of Bob Morin's feelings that Szabo was trying harder than ever to "meld together commercialism/audience appeal" with "musical adventure." "It was that last group with Richard and Greg Lee," says Morin, now a professor at Miracosta College, "where I knew he (Szabo) had decided to do it for real. I was 100% on the bandwagon. I couldn't wait to play with that group, each and every time; including rehearsals, which I had hated all my career, with everybody. It said volumes to me how I anticipated every encounter with that last band." Soon Szabo would depart for Hungary and although he intended to return (this quartet was supposed to record a Christmas record in early 1982), he died before this group had the opportunity to record any music for release.