presented by douglas payne
biography | equipment records | performances | pictures | in print | more | thanks


b: March 8, 1936
d: February 26, 1982

The following is a complete biography. Synopsis available here.

1936 to 1958

Gábor István Szabó was born in Budapest, Hungary on March 8, 1936. He developed an interest in guitar after seeing a Roy Rogers movie in 1949. When he was 14, he received a guitar from his father for Christmas. It was a poorly made instrument. But with the guitar, the teenager was offered one free lesson. He proceeded to teach himself to play by devising his own fingering system; one that accounted for the difficulty of the instrument's imprecision. Around this time, the young Szabó developed an interest in jazz by listening to Willis Conover's radio programs on the Voice of America. Hearing the likes of Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow on these programs, Szabo tried to emulate his American heroes in his own playing. Soon thereafter, Szabó began playing with local groups in dinner clubs; and, whenever he could, would attempt to play jazz. He even participated in one recording session, under the leadership of Myrna Bell [Irma Hosó] before leaving Hungary on the eve of the anti-Communist uprising in November 1956.

The twenty-year-old Szabó made his way one evening over the Hungarian border into Austria, accompanied by his girlfriend and first love, Éva, and a friend, Tibor Gyimesi (who eventually became an architect in Los Angeles). Szabó's only possession that evening was the guitar he had received for Christmas years before. Eventually, Szabo and his family made their way to the United States and settled in San Bernadino, California. After an unsuccessful attempt to make a career in music with his own group, the Three Strings in Los Angeles, the young guitarist worked as a janitor for a while. His intent was to save money to attend the Berklee School of Music in Boston. In 1958 he was accepted and left for Boston.

1958 to 1960

At Berklee, Szabo studied composition and arranging. But, as it had for many others before him (notably, Miles Davis), the promising musical breeding ground of Berklee exposed the young guitarist to other talented musicians on their way to fruitful musical careers. Szabo met and played with talents ranging from pianists Toshiko Akyoshi and Bob James to reedmen Charlie Mariano and Nick Brignola and composers such as Gary McFarland and Michael Gibbs. He was invited that year to participate in the historic 1958 Newport Jazz Festival as part of a group of international musicians and was recorded for two Columbia recordings, NEWPORT 1958 and another from the same event featuring Louis Armstrong. He also had the opportunity to participate in two Berklee student recordings, JAZZ IN THE CLASSROOM VOLUME II (1958) and JAZZ IN THE CLASSROOM VOLUME IV (1959). The fourth volume found Szabo in a more significant role than before; with a sophisticated arrangement of his own composition "Dilemma" and a more pronounced confidence in his metallic, mellifluous guitar sound. While attending Berklee, Szabo also performed in the groups of fellow student Toshiko Akyoshi and Boston-based lounge singer Joe Merlino. During a performance with Merlino's trio, Szabo met Alicia Solari, a Boston native he wed on July 18, 1959.

With no money and little hope of a scholarship, Szabo felt he could no longer continue to stay at Berklee. After four terms, he took his young wife to Los Angeles with him. Again, he found it hard being a professional musician on the West Coast and was forced to accept a job in property management. He soon met up with Chico Hamilton in Los Angeles. Szabo had met Hamilton backstage at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in between sets. At that time, Szabo made an impression on Hamilton for expressing admiration for the drummer's revolutionary jazz group; which, in 1958, featured the fiery reedwork of Eric Dolphy. Coincidentally, Hamilton's guitarist at the time, John Pisano, was preparing to leave the group and recommended Szabo to Hamilton as his replacement.

1960 to 1965

Szabo joined Hamilton's group, which now included the talented young tenor player and composer, Charles Lloyd. Hamilton actually did not like Szabo's playing at first and fired the young guitarist (though, today, he doesn't remember firing anybody from any of his groups). Lloyd, too, left the group to work briefly with pianist Les McCann. Hamilton asked Lloyd back into the group; offering him the role as the group's musical director. Lloyd accepted on condition that Hamilton bring Szabo back into the group. Hamilton agreed. In December 1961, Hamilton solidified his new quintet with the trombone of George Bohannon (a role he often traded with Garnett Brown) and recorded a stirring soundtrack to a short industrial film, LITHO. Within weeks, the quintet began appearing in clubs, startling patrons with its unique sound. Fronted by Lloyd's passionate Coltrane-influenced fireworks, this unique quintet coupled a muscular trombone-tenor front-line with Szabo's angularity melodic guitar (instead of piano) and the dexterity of young bassist Albert Stinson with Chico Hamilton's picturesque percussion cues. Hamilton's truly was a dynamic sound heralding a new generation of jazz.

Hamilton's quintet went to the studios in February 1962 and recorded the powerful DRUMFUSION for Columbia Records; a brilliant explosion of creative sound to ushering in Hamilton's new musical innovations and clearly announcing the arrival of a new sound in jazz. Later that year, the quintet recorded PASSIN' THRU for Impulse, home of John Coltrane, and, perhaps one of the most significant jazz recordings of the early 60s. This record announced the group's arrival and jazz listeners took note of the unique sound Hamilton's group was creating. Many of Lloyd's compositions were quite memorable and worthy of repeated listens, and gained strength with each new Hamilton release. Here, too, people began to pay attention to the young guitarist who created the haunting elegance of "Lady Gabor." Another outstanding quintet record was made in San Francisco in 1963 (A DIFFERENT JOURNEY) for Frank Sinatra's new label, Reprise.

Alternating performances as a quartet (without trombone) and quintet, the group went on to record MAN FROM TWO WORLDS, a collection of first-rate Charles Lloyd compositions, at the end of 1963. Lloyd, seeking new musical horizons, left the Hamilton group for Cannonball Adderley's quintet in early 1964. West Cost tenor player Jimmy Woods effectively replaced Lloyd, but the Hamilton group had a sturdy book of Lloyd compositions in its repertoire and in Szabo, a prominent young soloist who ascended rapidly to become the group's star.

By 1964, the Hamilton group made appearances in New York and along the West Coast. In late 1964, the Hamilton group (without Woods) was in London backing Lena Horne at the Talk of the Town club and recording some striking music to Roman Polanski's film, REPULSION. Hamilton had performed behind Ms. Horne many times before, but this was the guitarist's first collaboration with Ms. Horne -- a musical relationship which would elaborate and deepen in the coming years. Shortly after returning to New York, Szabo had been voted by Down Beat critics as Talent Deserving Wider Recognition (tied, ironically, with fellow Hungarian guitarist Attila Zoller). The Hamilton group went into the studios again to produce CHIC CHIC CHICO, Hamilton's showcase for Gabor Szabo's unique playing and compositional skills.

1965 to 1966

Encouraged by Chico Hamilton to develop his own unique style, Gabor Szabo found 1965 to be a most decisive turning point in his career. He had matured from mere player and rhythmist to recognized musical force and unique jazz personality. His metallic sound and mixture of single-note phrasings with chordal flurries was easily recognized and admired by jazz listeners. Shortly after celebrating the birth of his son, Blaise, on February 10, Szabo left the Hamilton group to accept an invitation to join Charles Lloyd's newly-formed quartet; what Szabo would later call a "supergroup," featuring bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams (or Pete LaRoca). While Szabo would continue to actively record with Hamilton for the next year and a half (two excellent Latin-flavored dates, EL CHICO and THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF EL CHICO), he began to perform in New York clubs with the Lloyd quartet and in the Spring of 1965 recorded OF COURSE, OF COURSE, a superior collection of challenging Lloyd performances in the Spring of 1965.

While Szabo enjoyed and appreciated the harmonious musical contrasts created with Lloyd, his tastes were less inclined toward Lloyd's "energy music" and more toward the romanticism of ballads and the appeal of rock-and-roll. Gary McFarland, a fellow Berklee student who had since made a name for himself as a significant jazz composer and arranger with several impressive collaborations (Stan Getz, John Lewis and Bill Evans), had similar feelings and, like Szabo, wanted to bring jazz and rock together. Following the popular success of McFarland's SOFT SAMBA record, McFarland was afforded the opportunity to assemble a working quintet. He invited Szabo to participate and the two began a successful musical union that would last over the next five years. With McFarland, Szabo recorded THE IN SOUND for Verve, a terrific sampler of McFarland's popular sensibilities and Szabo's effective soloing. The two paired again later in the year to record the guitarist's debut solo recording, GYPSY '66, for Impulse! Records.

McFarland was then commissioned to have a jazz orchestra perform his compositions at Lincoln Center in February 1966. He was given the opportunity to choose the very best of New York's jazz musicians for the orchestra and wrote a piece, "Mountain Heir" in honor of his star guitarist, Gabor Szabo. The event solidified Szabo's new star status and led Szabo to begin pursuing his own solo career in jazz.

Szabo's solo career was memorably launched in May 1966 when he teamed with Chico Hamilton and Ron Carter for what arguably remains his very best recording, SPELLBINDER. The album is an inventive, exciting and unusual collection of Szabo originals, jazz standards and rock tunes like Sonny & Cher's hit "Bang Bang" that benefits by its jam-session origins and Latin flourishes. It also yielded a hit in 1970 when the rock group Santana added the riff of Szabo's "Gypsy Queen" to its Top 40 version of "Black Magic Woman." Later in the month, Szabo again collaborated with Gary McFarland on SIMPATICO, an uneven collection of brief, Beatlesque pop tunes clearly aimed toward a more commercial audience (i.e. non-jazz listeners).

Szabo was now listening intently to the young guitarists who were making new sounds in rock; especially Eric Clapton and George Harrison. After many years of fascination with Indian music and the work of Ravi Shankar, Szabo assembled a small group featuring drummer Bernard Purdie in August 1966 to record JAZZ RAGA. This outstanding collection successfully wed Szabo's divergent interests in jazz, rock and Indian music -- but found the iconoclastic guitarist overdubbing his own sitar playing (on a badly-tuned instrument) overtop his equally sitar-like guitar playing. While the album received mixed reactions, it furthered Szabo's willingness to experiment and even innovate.

1967 to 1970

In setting out to establish a new musical identity, Szabo in early 1967 formed his first, and perhaps most influential working group. In the quintet, fueled by the prodigiously talented and accomplished guitarist Jimmy Stewart, longtime Szabo friend and fellow Hungarian refugee Louis Kabok on bass, Hal Gordon on percussion and a variety of excellent stickmen in the drummer's chair (Jim Keltner, Dick Berk, Johnny Rae, Marty Morell and others), the guitarist found his most preferred and ideal musical situation. It was especially significant that Szabo found in the classically-trained Stewart a soloist, like Charles Lloyd in the past, with whom he could exchange ideas and trade fours. The two were ideally suited to one another; providing a beautiful contrast to each other's gifts. Szabo's new quintet was recorded live for Impulse! with THE SORCERER, one of Szabo's most enduringly popular recordings. Its success led Impulse! to issue more live recordings with the even-better MORE SORCERY. (which included three excellent tracks now featured on the recently-reissued CD of THE SORCERER).

Gabor Szabo's quintet played many clubs and festivals during 1967; winning unanimous praise for its collective sensitivity, strong identity and the genuine and memorable excitement it created on stage. The guitarist, in collaboration with producer Bob Thiele, also began participating in increasingly popular and rather forgettable recordings that featured more popular songs, singing groups and less of his signature guitar work: WIND, SKY & DIAMONDS, under his own name, LIGHT MY FIRE (with Thiele) and SONGS FOR GENTLE PEOPLE (with Steve Allen).

Living on Cordell Drive in Hollywood -- where his neighbors included Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn -- and recording and performing almost exclusively on the West Coast, Gabor Szabo joined with composer Gary McFarland (a New York City resident) and vibraphonist Cal Tjader (a San Francisco resident) to form the Skye Recording Co., Ltd. Based in New York under the direction of their mutual manager, Norman Schwartz, the Skye Recordings label was founded as an independent resource for more contemporary jazz and emerging musicians -- with musical intentions similar to its principals' interests. In addition to the 20 recordings the company released over its brief three-year existence, Skye released several interesting Szabo records: BACCHANAL and DREAMS (both 1968) and GABOR SZABO 1969, a good collection of Szabo's pop/rock interpretations.

During this period, Szabo also began experimenting with the use of feedback in his playing. He successfully achieved his goal of mimicking the drone of a sitar and tastefully extended his unique metallic sound into a broader, more experimental soundscape (which guitar synthesists like Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell would perfect some years later). Szabo would occasionally weave his feedback experiments into his recordings, but find most of his success with this playing during live performances.

By the end of 1969, Szabo was teamed with legendary singer Lena Horne for a classic performance in LENA & GABOR. The perennially popular and well-liked record proved to be an ideal showcase for Szabo, who is heard to be a gifted and most sensitive accompanist. For Lena Horne, it was an opportunity to reach a younger audience to with more contemporary material (by the Beatles, Michel Legrand, Burt Bachrach and Harry Nilsson). While the two had performed on stage together in the past, this collection presented the first opportunity for record buyers to hear how special their collaboration was. The following year, the two reunited on Ms. Horne's television special. The record, despite its enormous popularity, proved to be one of the last issued by the financially-challenged Skye label. Szabo, Tjader and McFarland parted ways and Szabo, who had spent much of 1969 infrequently performing, was anxious to form a new band.

1970 to 1973

In May 1970, Szabo assembled a sextet including Richard Thompson (key), Wolfgang Melz (el-b), Jim Keltner (d), Lynn Blessing (vib) and Hal Gordon (per). His new working group was consciously more percussive and, more significantly, as capable of solid jazz support as they were familiar and comfortable with the differing challenges that rock proposed. Classically trained pianist Richard Thompson had already toured with the Beach Boys. Both he and Fender bassist Wolfgang Melz were part of the successful pop group, the Association. Vibraphonist Lynn Blessing, a Paul Horn protégé, had recently released his own album of rock-influenced jazz, SUNSET PAINTER (Epic 26488). And all three had recently worked in John Klemmer's groundbreaking groups.

Now, with his intentions clearly developed, Szabo assembled his group in the studio that summer to record MAGICAL CONNECTION for an eclectic new independent label, Blue Thumb. The record received lukewarm critical appraisal and, unfortunately, sparse sales. Szabo would perform throughout the year with variations of the sextet; sometimes as a quartet, others as a quintet. Talented Fender bassist Wolfgang Melz rapidly ascended in importance to the group, providing guitar-quality pyro-technique (before Jaco Pastorious made it irrelevant) and a number of appealing compositions. Melz enhanced Szabo's book of standards, originals and pop covers with tunes like "Country Illusion," "Rambler," "Help Me Build A Lifetime" and "Reinhardt."

In early 1971, Blue Thumb paired Szabo with famed session guitarist and songwriter Bobby Womack to produce HIGH CONTRAST, a collaboration which endures as a favorite among critics and fans. Even today this record has cult appeal for those discovering the varied work of Bobby Womack and jazz listeners unaware of Szabo's music in the 1960s. The album, which serves as a blueprint for the less successful production dates Szabo would participate in later in the decade, features a soulful side of Szabo's melodic playing, inspired by the silky R & B grooves laid down by Womack (who features some of the songs made famous on his renowned LPs, COMMUNICATION and ACROSS 110th STREET). "Breezin," a song Womack brought to the session especially for Gabor Szabo, later became a hit for George Benson (whose album of the same name was also produced by HIGH CONTRAST's producer, Tommy LiPuma).

Subsequently, Gabor Szabo found that he shared the talents of bassist Wolfgang Melz and percussionist Mayuto (Mailto Correa) with Charles Lloyd. Both Lloyd and Szabo occasionally performed live together during this time. One of these performances was recorded (GABOR SZABO LIVE). The album, which remained unreleased until 1974, only captured Lloyd with Szabo on one song ("Sombrero Sam"), even though more of their collaboration was recorded. Szabo and Lloyd, however, did reunite in the studios in early 1972 to record Lloyd's excellent WAVES, a successful blend of the pair's coincidental rock tendencies and improvisational talents.

That summer, Szabo accepted an opportunity to become closer to one of his biggest fans, Carlos Santana; who, by 1972, was a world-renowned rock star with a popularity that eclipsed Szabo's. Szabo spent several weeks that summer at Santana's home in San Francisco, playing with the rock guitarist (whose own sound had evolved into a unique and worthwhile wail of rock, blues, Latin and soul) and his group. It was during this point that Carlos Santana was looking to change the direction of his band and fuse elements of jazz into his recognizable blends of music. Szabo proposed that he and Santana form a group together. Santana unfortunately had to decline to begin working with John McLaughlin and Larry Young in a group that yielded the exceptionally fine and creative LOVE DEVOTION AND SURRENDER album. Szabo and Santana, however, remained friends and over the following years collaborated on several songs together. One of their collaborations, "Gardenia," was so significantly modified by Santana (and Herbie Hancock) during the sessions for Santana's 1980 solo album, THE SWING OF DELIGHT, that Szabo's contributions were written out of the song. Santana, however, in a Down Beat interview, dedicated the song to Gabor Szabo.

Szabo, a man who often formed deep and lasting friendships, seized an opportunity later that summer to renew his relationship with fellow Hungarian and childhood friend Peter Totth. Totth also left Hungary in 1956 and settled in Sweden, where he became an active arranger in jazz and television (he has since relocated to the United States). Szabo and his wife, Alicia, went to Stockholm in August 1972 and Totth arranged a recording session with Lars Samuelsson, owner of Four Leaf Clover records. The result, SMALL WORLD, yielded one of Szabo's finest recordings, pairing the guitarist effectively with European fusion guitarist Janne Schaeffer and offering a sterling solo interpretation of Rodrigo's "Concerto de Aranjuez."

Upon his return to the United States, Szabo sought to rekindle the excitement (and sales) of his mid 60s recordings. He teamed with Creed Taylor, whose CTI Records produced some of the finest (and most profitable) jazz in the early 70s. The guitarist headed to New York in December 1972 to record MIZRAB, an exceptional recording that contains two outstanding performances in Szabo's own "Mizrab and "Thirteen." Although the record was made with studio musicians, it reunited Szabo with bassist (and fellow Chico Hamilton "discovery") Ron Carter and paired him with fellow Berklee student Bob James (CTI's in-house arranger at the time). James and Szabo quickly developed a brilliant and effective chemistry that was explored only during Szabo's brief tenure with CTI: on Paul Desmond's SKYLARK, RAMBLER (1973) and MACHO (1975).

Szabo still performed primarily throughout the West Coast in a variety of aggregates that periodically reunited him with old bandmates Jimmy Stewart and Louis Kabok. Keyboard players Richard Thompson, Mike Wofford and Joanne Grauer were also heard in Szabo's units. During this period, one of the few constants in his band was drummer Bob Morin -- whose trio with Thompson and Wolfgang Melz more often than not constituted Szabo's "working group." In September of 1973, Szabo was invited to bring his group to Carnegie Hall in New York to play as part of a guitar triple bill which also featured Laurindo Almedia and John Fahey. During his trip to New York that September, he recorded RAMBLER at Rudy Van Gelder's New Jersey studios.

1974 to 1977

During the summer of 1974, Szabo returned to Budapest for the first time since the Communist uprising forced him away in 1956. Szabo made the two-and-a-half month trip with his wife, Alicia, and their nine-year-old son, Blaise. The guitarist was reunited with family members, met old friends and marveled at how little had changed. During his stay, he participated in a roundtable discussion with students at the Conservatory of Music in Budapest, played with several groups in Budapest clubs and was filmed during a studio performance by Hungarian television for, JAZZPÓDIUM 74: SZABÓ GÁBOR (USA) MÜSORA, the first show completely devoted to jazz on Hungarian television.

Upon his return to the United States, Szabo found his journey inspired a renewed awareness in his Hungarian Gypsy heritage. He sought to merge elements of both his acoustic heritage and electric styles with a return to his musical roots. This awareness led to his eventual recording of Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody" (on MACHO) and an attempt to form an "orchestra" featuring his current quartet (with Richard Thompson, John Smith and Bob Morin) and former group members Louis Kabok (d), Jimmy Stewart (g) and Mayuto [Mailto Correa] (per). This group came to be known as the Perfect Circle in honor of what Szabo considered the evolution in his music. While the group made several club appearances, it never crystallized the way Szabo had hoped. Subsequently, the Perfect Circle yielded no recordings either.

Later that year, Szabo participated in the filming of a documentary on his music and career. Filmed over the course of several months in late 1974 and early 1975 by Larry Bock, a film student at the University of Southern California, RISING caught Szabo (and his family) at home, during rehearsals and in performance at the famed Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California. While the 30-minute film (which was never publicly released) contains many of Szabo's insights into his music and documents his love for painting, it also contains interesting interviews with wife, Alicia, critic Leonard Feather, and pianist Richard Thompson.

Szabo recorded the Bob James production, MACHO for CTI affiliate, Salvation Records in early 1975 with a small group of studio musicians. In 1976, he began recording even more popular-oriented fare for Mercury Records. While his working quartet now included pianist George Cables and bassist Tony Dumas (recent émigrés of Freddie Hubbard's group), Szabo recorded the commercial album, NIGHTFLIGHT, with a group of Philadelphia studio musicians led by the then in-demand disco hitman, Bunny Sigler. The album, filled with dated disco trappings and melodramatic musical flourishes, did, however, yield the interesting "Concorde (Nightflight)," which quickly became a staple of Szabo's repertoire. Szabo was also heard on two other Mercury releases that year, Coke Escovedo's COMIN' AT YA and Charles Earland's THE GREAT PYRAMID.

The following year, Szabo and his wife Alicia were divorced. She and their son, Blaise, moved back to Boston while the guitarist maintained his home in Hollywood. Musically, he teamed with former Jazz Crusader Wayne Henderson to produce the more substantial recording, FACES. Henderson, like Bobby Womack before, capably framed Szabo in a complimentary environment, allowing the guitarist plenty of room for good playing. FACES utilized Szabo's current working band, Bobby Lyle (key), Marlon McClain (el-g), Nathaniel Phillips (b) and Bruce Carter (d) -- the same group who accompanies Szabo during scenes in Carlos Santana's 1994 video tribute to Szabo, CARLOS SANTANA INFLUENCES. It also reunited Szabo on record with guitarist Jimmy Stewart for "Estaté," a song which radio station KKGO helped turn into a local hit in San Francisco during the summer of 1977.

1978 to 1982

FACES was critically neglected and sold rather poorly. But it ultimately became the last Gabor Szabo record released in America. It was not, however, the last album he made. In early January 1978, the guitarist again ventured to Sweden and recorded BELSTA RIVER, an often exciting fusion record that teamed him with guitarist Janne Schaffer and former Frank Zappa bassist, Pekka Pohjola. Later in the month Szabo returned again to Hungary where he was filmed live in performance at the Budapest Hilton Hotel for a Hungarian television special.

Following his return to the United States, the guitarist became actively involved in L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology. Seeking relief from a heroin habit he began while still with Chico Hamilton many years before, he enrolled in the Narconon program, a rehabilitation division of Scientology. Szabo would perform charity concerts throughout California for the benefit of the Church. By November, he had met and befriended prominent Scientologist Chick Corea and signed with Vanguard Artists International, a management agency reputedly affiliated with the church and directed by Corea.

Atlantic Records signed the guitarist and he recorded FEMME FATALE with a group of studio musicians (mostly from the group Seawind) for his label debut. The album, which features a duet with Chick Corea on the pianist's "Out of the Night", did not appeal to the brass at Atlantic. The tapes were returned to Szabo and his relationship with Atlantic Records was severed. The guitarist lobbied other American companies to release the album, but was unsuccessful until the small Hungarian company Pepita International agreed to release it in Europe in 1981. In July 1979, Szabo performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Joe Beck (el-g), Mike Richmond (b) and Dannie Richmond (d) and as part of the George Wein Festival in London with luminaries Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, B.B. King and Stan Getz.

Szabo soon befriended Marianne Almassey, a recently divorced Hungarian model living in Los Angeles. The two rapidly developed a deep, emotional relationship and Szabo soon lavished much of his time and attention upon this lovely, bewitching woman. By February 1980, he felt increasingly enslaved and betrayed by Scientology, telling friends "they're turning me into a zombie." He brought a $21 million lawsuit against the church and Vanguard Artists International, charging misappropriation of funds, miscalculation of fees, financial coercing and failure to pay Szabo's taxes. The suit failed to survive arbitration and was dropped early the following year.

Szabo performed infrequently during this time, devoting much of his time to Marianne and fighting off the demons of his heroin habit. Pianist and old friend, Richard Thompson was, however, able to coax Szabo back into playing more regularly again. The L.A. trio Thompson maintained with Bob Morin on drums now included Greg Lee, a talented young bassist who ably endured comparison to predecessor Wolfgang Melz. This group seemed to help Gabor discover new stills of energy, enthusiasm and creativity. Together, they accepted the challenge of tapping the limits of each other's talents. There was no reliance on formula, no patented licks for support and flirtations with pop music were curtailed in favor of true soul searching innate of new worlds of invention.

But by 1981, Gabor Szabo was feeling frustrated, tired and sought relief from the pressures of his habit by returning to his homeland. Accompanied by Marianne, Szabo departed in July for Hungary one last time. Once there, he reunited with old friends Attila Garay (p) and Peter Dando (el-b) and was interviewed by Hungarian television for the show PULZUS. He performed occasionally while in Budapest and arranged for the European release of his final recording, FEMME FATALE. The guitarist was hospitalized in early December, which at this point was not an uncommon occurrence. Friends in the United States grew concerned as he remained hospitalized past Christmas and into January. Gabor Szabo was becoming more anxious for his health to improve so he might return home with Marianne. He had discussed plans to record a Christmas album with his American group upon his return. But on February 26, 1982, Gabor Szabo finally succumbed to the liver and kidney ailments he suffered and died in the hospital. He was buried in Budapest.

Painting: By Gabor Szabo.
Sketch: Courtesy of John and Barbara Szabo.