Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: May 6, 1966
Gabor Szabo (g); Ron Carter (b); Chico Hamilton (d); Victor Pantoja, Willie Bobo (perc.)
same, except Gabor Szabo (g,vcl).
same, except Gabor Szabo (g).
h. (90559) Witchcraft (C. Leigh/C. Coleman) - 4:38
An exceptional moment in jazz and Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabos best record. SPELLBINDER, a successful mix of standards and on-the-spot improvisations, contains the original version of "Gypsy Queen," the song Santana made famous in 1970. Features bassist Ron Carter on bass, Chico Hamilton on drums and percussionists Victor Pantoja and Willie Bobo. In need of domestic release on CD, SPELLBINDER is a hypnotic album that deserves to be heard by guitar lovers and jazz listeners alike.
On "Gypsy Queen": While Szabo's compositions have rarely been covered by other musicians, "Gypsy Queen" became famous in 1970 when the rock group Santana included a brief version of the song at the end of its cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman." The song, featured on Santana's album ABRAXAS (Columbia C 30130), reached number four on the Billboard charts (11/21/70).
"I'll never forget," producer Bob Thiele recalled. "I had gone into the office on a Saturday and I was opening the mail and there was a royalty statement from Columbia Records. It must have amounted to 30 or 40,000 dollars for 'Gypsy Queen' being part of 'Black Magic Woman.' I called Gabor and said, 'Gabor, are you sitting down or standing up?' I said, 'sit down.' I told him and he really freaked out on the phone. He just couldn't believe it. He was so happy and I was happy that he was happy. It was a delightful moment, really."
Carlos Santana, the group's leader, has always expressed admiration publicly for Szabo and his influence. In a June 1978 interview for Guitar Player magazine, Santana claimed that his band had been exclusively a blues band until he'd heard "Spellbinder" in 1966. Santana was drawn to the appeal of the album's conga sounds and credits this with the beginnings of his band's "crossover" fusions.
The two guitarists did in fact forge a friendship several years later, which resulted in Szabo spending one summer in the early 70s as Santana's house guest and playing with Carlos' group.
When Carlos Santana was looking to change the musical direction of his band in 1972, Szabo offered Carlos the opportunity to unite musically. Santana, while flattered and excited by the offer, chose instead to pursue a fusion direction (inspired by a deep religious spirituality) with John McLaughlin; forming the band with Larry Young on organ, which would record the album LOVE, DEVOTION AND SURRENDER (Columbia KC32034) in early 1973.
Later, in a January 1981 Down Beat interview, Santana announced the dedication of his song "Gardenia" to Szabo. The song, originally conceived with Szabo's collaboration, was issued on the 1980 Devadip Carlos Santana album, THE SWING OF DELIGHT (Columbia C2 36590), and featured SPELLBINDER bassist Ron Carter. "Gabor Szabo is my spellbinder," said Santana; "I look forward to recording an album with him someday." While such a recording never occurred, Santana continues to perform "Gypsy Queen" in concerts all over the world.
Of the song, Santana wrote in his liner notes to VIVA SANTANA! (Columbia C2K 44344), "We used to fool around with 'Gypsy Queen" because I loved Gabor Szabo so much. I used to see Gabor play a lot in the Bay area. He'd seem to lock himself into a certain position and just put everyone in a spell. He was the guitar player who took me out of B.B. King -- otherwise I'd still be with those Chicago and Texas blues cats. 'Gypsy Queen' was our way of doing his music."
Versions of "Gypsy Queen" were also recorded in 1970 by Count Basie with an Oliver Nelson arrangement (AFRIQUE: Flying Dutchman FD-10138 or Doctor Jazz JZ39520, RCA (Fr) 74321796182 [CD]), in 1971 by Larry Coryell (BAREFOOT BOY: Flying Dutchman FD-10139 or RCA AYL1-3961, One Way OW-71001 [CD]) and with lyrics in 1973 by Leon Thomas (BLUES AND THE SOULFUL TRUTH: Flying Dutchman FD-10155, RCA (Fr) 74321851532 [CD]). All these versions were produced by SPELLBINDER producer Bob Thiele.