Gabor Szabo

Belsta River

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Issued in 1978 on LP, Belsta River, one of Hungarian guitarist and composer Gabor Szabo's finest albums, is finally out on CD -- in a double pack with his other Stockholm date, 1972's Small World. The set is on Four Leaf Records and is available as an inexpensive import. Six years after the pair of sessions that yielded the critically acclaimed but commercially ignored Small World, Szabo once again teamed with Swedish guitarist Janne Schaffer in a sextet setting that also featured keyboards, bass, drums, and hand percussion. There are only four tracks on the set: two fine Szabo originals ("24 Carat," "First Tune in the Morning"), "Django" by the Modern Jazz Quartet's John Lewis, and J.R. Cobb's classic "Stormy." With Schaffer playing foil on every track here and Wlodek Gulgowski's stunning left-handed improvisational work on piano, this is more of a blowing session than any Szabo had ever played on. It's funky, greasy, and elegant. "24 Carat," with its bluesy Latin funk, is the perfect opportunity for everyone to get acquainted -- solos and bubbling bass riffs pop the tune so deep into a groove there's nowhere to go but over the top. "Django" is taken with gracious restraint, as is the beginning of "First Tune in the Morning," which becomes a trippy exercise in the kind of exotica that Weather Report once did so well, powered by a pair of deeply lyrical superchopper guitar players. "Stormy" is a lyric masterpiece that, in its understatement, gives way to some of the most tasteful interactive soloing in electric jazz history. In all, this was Szabo's last fine moment on record, but what a moment it was.

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