Gábor Szabó / March 8, 1936 - Feb 26, 1982

Here's a birthday shout-out to the groovy guitarist Gábor Szabó, who infused jazz with the folk music of his native Hungary, Indian & Middle Eastern musics, gypsy styles and pop. He used feedback as part of his music, and he worked well with vocalists. He cut a bunch of excellent '60s albums on Impulse!, as well as the Skye label (which he ran with Cal Tjader and Gary McFarland). He worked with Chico Hamilton, Charles Lloyd, Lena Horne, Bobby Womack, Coke Escovedo, Paul Desmond, Gary McFarland, Chick Corea and others. Santana recorded his "Gypsy Queen" (the instrumental part of "Black Magic Woman"). He railed against those Scientology bastards before he died. Check out his albums during his late '60s run on Impulse!, especially Spellbinder, Jazz Raga and The Sorcerer.

He started playing guitar at 14, jamming along with the American players he heard on the radio. He was working in Hungary before leaving for Austria in '56 as Communism came in. He first hit the States via the West Coast, working as a janitor to get enough money to go to Berklee School of Music in Boston. Back out West, he joined Chico Hamilton's Los Angeles-based Quintet in '61. The group recorded a line of great records for Impulse! and other labels. After leaving the group in '65 he worked with his bandmate Charles Lloyd, as well as his future business partner, vibraphonist McFarland.

Starting with Spellbinder and Gypsy '66, he produced his own string of classics on Impulse!, including the ground-breaking sitar-jazz-pop album Jazz Raga. In '68 the Skye label was born with Szabó, McFarland and Tjader, with Gábor releasing five of his own albums on the imprint. He signed to Blue Thumb and his first album for them was the '71 collaboration with Bobby Womack, which included the original version of "Breezin", a mega-hit for George Benson a few years later. His '73 album for CTI, Mizrab, is another favorite of his. His '79 collaboration with Corea, Femme Fatale, was his last record before his death from kidney failure.

Here's a stream of his classic Jazz Raga, from '66:

"Bacchanal", from his '68 Skye LP of the same name:

'72's "Mizrab":

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