Gabor Szabo

His Great Hits

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To date, this is easily the best Gabor Szabo sampler ever issued because it thoroughly sums up exactly five years of extraordinary creative curiosity on two LPs. Once Szabo had left the Chico Hamilton band -- though not leaving him entirely behind -- he got caught up in the whole 1960s idea of restless, eclectic experimentation. Yet Szabo fit in brilliantly; his unique tone and attacks gave everything he touched a signature sound, and his yen for hypnotic incantatory improvisations rooted in Hungarian folk music was made to order for the wave of Indian influences that swept the Western music scene then. There is Indian-tinged music here -- Szabo's overdubbed sitar playing may have been technically crude, but it added appealingly off-kilter microtones to his blues jams -- as well as small-combo jazz, big band stuff, Latin grooves, and show and rock tunes. The innovative Gary McFarland often turns up with intriguing big band charts or vibraphone work, presaging their later collaborations on McFarland's Skye label. Szabo the composer is amply represented by superb tunes like the lovely "Spring Song" and the Latin-accented "Evil Eye." The mysterious "Lady Gabor" turns up twice -- once with McFarland and the second time in a lengthy flashback to the Hamilton band of 1962. There were failures, like the hokey TV commercial-like version of John Phillips' "Twelve-Thirty," but it is more noteworthy that so many of these experiments worked. Given the shockingly bare state of Szabo's catalog, GRP ought to lift this entire collection of tracks for a CD reissue.