Song of the Day (Shocktober): Gabor Szabo “Witchcraft”
Hungarian jazz guitarist, Gabor Szabo is a player whose reputation has fallen-off somewhat since his heyday in the late 60s and early 70s. This is a real shame, because his eastern-scale inflected playing represented a truly unique voice in jazz. He managed to fuse modern progressive bop playing with the folk and classical music traditions of his native Hungary into a whole – frequently also digging into some of the Indian-scales that were popular during the era as well.
“Witchcraft” is Gabor Szabo at his very peak. His extended solos and runs throughout the song are not just interesting, but really hammer home the eerie undertones of the tune and the idea of witchcraft in general. At the same time, there is almost a funky undertone to this read as well. Szabo always had a great feel for rhythm, and when he locks in the bass and drums, the affect is undeniable.
Gabor Szabo was born in Budapest in 1936. He began playing guitar at the age of 14 after hearing jazz music over a Voice of America broadcast. Szabo combined elements of straight ahead jazz playing, Hungarian folk music, gypsy music and the feedback/ tone of emerging rock music. He first came to the states in 1958 when he was invited to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival. He subsequently fell in love with California and shacked-up with SoCal based drummer, Chico Hamilton. Szabo, in tandem with sax player Charles Lloyd and trombonist George Bohanon, became part of the front three of Hamilton’s formidable, slightly avant-garde jazz quintet throughout the early 60s.
Eventually, Szabo went solo, recording a string of records with an ever changing cast of sidemen. He was also the subject of a short 1977 documentary by then film student and later noted film editor Larry Bock.
Szabo, who had frequent health problems and grappled with heroin addiction throughout his career, died in 1982 on a trip back to his native Budapest.