Montreux, Switzerland; July 16, 1979
Gabor Szabo (g); Joe Beck (el-g); Mike Richmond (b); Dannie Richmond (d).
same, Joe Beck out.
same, add Joe Beck (el-g).
At one point, the unidentified MC says that, "as incredible as it sounds, this is Gabor Szabo and Joe Beck's first performance together in 15 years." The two met backstage shortly before performing on stage together. A more or less spontaneous jam begins the set with a bowed bass, Beck's brewing rock lines and Szabo's hints of "A Thousand Times." It's soon resolved as one of the "gypsy" flavored frameworks intended to allow for easy blowing.
Beck is, quite surprisingly, an ideal partner; actively sparring with Szabo the way Jimmy Stewart once did but interjecting a welcome meaty rock edge to the proceedings. Folding into a bossa nova, loosely reminiscent of Jobim's "Dreamer," Beck's virtuosity becomes even clearer. He can meld the pretty playfulness of George Benson and Szabo's gypsy jocularity with the steely funk of his best CTI recordings. Again, Szabo thrives in the freer environment; filled with spontaneity and a chance for gaming interaction. Szabo's increased fervor in the presence of another guitarist is striking.
Szabo then introduces Bobby Womack's "Breezin'" as a song he co-wrote and proceeds to deliver a thrilling version -- even without Beck's underscoring. He keeps it simple, playing off of Mike Richmond's excellent, jumpy bass work, and turns in a spunky, animated rendition.
In a surprising turn, Szabo whips off an effervescent "Straight No Chaser" with all the charm of a truant schoolboy who, without much effort, captures honors at the end of the year. His playing catches all the sharp angles of Monk's playful tune and he weaves through the maze of the composer's universe like an astronaut who knows every brilliant corner. Szabo sort of resembles Wes Montgomery when he covers a jazz tune like this: preserving the song's uniqueness while transcending the soloist's originality. One bristles at the thought of an original like Szabo exploring a book of tunes as well known and complex as those by Thelonius Monk.