Lena Horne / Gabor Szabo

Lena & Gabor

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Recorded in 1968, this pairing of Hungarian guitar genius Gabor Szabo and vocalist Lena Horne is a study in contrasts. For starters, the band is stellar. Szabo enlisted the help of bassist Chuck Rainey, drummer Grady Tate, and organist Richard Tee. Originally released on the short-lived Skye label owned by Szabo, Cal Tjader, and Gary McFarland (who produced this 1970 set), the album opens with a beautiful duet between Horne and Szabo in "My Mood Is You," and is followed by the slippery, romantic instrumental "Galatea's Guitar." But it isn't until track three, with the Michel Legrand masterpiece "Watch What Happens," that the album truly kicks into gear. The contrast of Horne's full-throated voice and Szabo's unconventional, modal guitar playing is mesmerizing, and Tee's swinging B-3 just struts and pops through the melody. With its shimmering melody lines, George Harrison's "Something" was a tune built for Szabo, and Horne -- in typical fashion -- understates the lyric and carries through with her trademark languid phrasing. Other standouts here include Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talking" and Lennon and McCartney's trio of tunes "Rocky Raccoon" (one of the most original versions ever recorded), "In My Life," and a dreamy yet dramatic "Fool on the Hill." An instrumental read of Donovan's "Ferris Wheel" showcases the delicate yet intuitive interplay of the quartet, with McFarland's whispering string and horn arrangements. This is a fine date and will be desired by fans of both artists.

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