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Berklee School of Music
Berklee School of Music, Boston: 1959

Everett Longstreth, Ed Armour, Paul Kelly, Gerald Lamy, Alan Ware, Jack Weaver (tp); Keith Davy, Michael Gibbs, Jack Wertheimer (tb); Dick Wright (tb,b,tp); John Cieslak (as); Dick Johnson (as,cl); Ted Casher, Barry Ulman (ts); Bob Seastrom (bar); Gary McFarland (vib); Bob Clear or Dan Skea (p); Gabor Szabo (g,arr); Tony Teixeira (b); Butch Axsmith or Harry Brown (d); Herb Pomeroy (dir).

a. Dilemma (Gabor Szabo) - 3:01

same or similar, except Dick Wright (arr).

b. Three for All (Dick Wright) - 3:34

same or similar, except Gary McFarland (arr).

c. Summer Day (Gary McFarland) - 3:48
d. Back Bay (Gary McFarland) - 3:14

same or similar, except Dick Loven (arr).

e. A Ballad for Me (Dick Loven) - 2:42

same or similar, except John Cieslak (arr).

f. Blues Before and Because Of (John Cieslak) - 3:27

same or similar, except Gary McFarland (arr).

g. By My Side (Gary McFarland) - 3:48
h. Pamela (Gary McFarland) - 3:07

same or similar, except Tony Teixeira (arr).

i. Lonely Horn (Tony Teixeira) - 3:37

same or similar, except Don French (arr).

j. New Life (Don French) - 3:40

Ed Armour (tp); Bob Clear (p); Tony Teixeira (b); Gary McFarland (vib).

k. Free Forms - 3:46

Issues: a-k on Berklee BLP-4.
Producer: Not Listed
Engineer: Not Listed
Notes: Marshall Brown

Szabo is occasionally heard comping here -- so mellifluously, in fact, he sounds like a light-touch pianist -- on "Summer Day," "A Ballad for Me," "Lonely Horn" and "New Life." He is also heard quietly comping behind the improvised sections of his own large-scale composition, "Dilemma." The sprightly number has a bouncy character which illustrates Szabo's gift for creating the feel of spontaneity. It lopes and leaps with an Ellingtonian flair.

Of "Dilemma," the album's notes indicate, "(t)hat Hungarian guitarist-arranger, Gabor Szabo has a particular talent for linear writing is evident from this big-band original. By carrying the motivic development through individual horns as well as unison and soli sections, Szabo has managed to create an active and exciting mood." [Szabo's transcription of "Dilemma" was published in the April 28, 1960, Down Beat, pp. 68-76.] One longs, though, for the opportunity to have heard Szabo later in his career pick these lines from his own strings accompanied only by his rhythm section. It is also instructive to note that Szabo would rarely place himself in such a large-scale environment again in his career (one occasion with Gary McFarland in 1966 is the sole exception).

The most remarkable aspect of this recording, however, is the first teaming of Szabo with future collaborator and musical comrade, vibist-arranger Gary McFarland. It is evident, even here, that the sensitive and creative McFarland shared a sympathetic musical vision with Szabo's unabashed romanticism. While McFarland was a technician who easily veered toward pure sentimentality, Szabo, a classist by comparison, offered a musical edginess and mystery. The two clearly had plenty to offer each other and it's apparent here that McFarland discovered something in Szabo he was very attracted to -- that "simpatico" nature which named a later collaboration of theirs.

"Pamela" is the showpiece here. It is one of McFarland's lullabies, or at least a study of the lullaby form. There's evidence, most especially here, that Szabo is reconsidering his sound and approach to his playing. While he still retains the lovely predilection of a Herb Ellis or Barney Kessel, he is beginning to pick at the strings with a strength that gives the music a welcome roughness. Szabo is, strikingly more relaxed and natural on this occasion too than on the previous Berklee recording. Where he seemed to want to fit in before, he aims to assert his uniqueness here as if he is only just discovering it himself. "Pamela" has Szabo playing off McFarland nicely and opens up the spaces for Szabo's originality. His guitar has a warm single-line mystery cushioned by McFarland's mood-enhancing vibraphone chording. It is a beautiful performance and, along with the welcome liveliness of "Free Forms" (where Szabo does not perform), it is what is most memorable about this occasion.

The success of "Pamela" confirms Szabo discomfort within large-group settings. Placed in a small-group, as he is here, he thrives. Perhaps he discovered this himself during his stay at Berklee. His challenges were to be found almost exclusively in the interplay with one other prominent sound maker. These soloists seemed mostly to be gifted accompanists themselves; McFarland here and Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Stewart, Wolfgang Melz and Bob James elsewhere. Only Charles Lloyd, an exceptional soloist and a leader of pronounced talents and abilities of his own, could be considered an exception.