Gabor Szabo may not have been as much of a household name as his jazz guitar counterparts (Grant Green & Wes Montgomery), but the Hungarian guitarist was a highly skilled player that posessed unmatched versatility. Indeed, after starting his career as a member of the ever evolving Chico Hamilton Quintet in the early 60s, Szabo turned to Indian,Latin and psychedelic rock fusion to craft his jazz recordings as band leader on the adventurous Impulse label. However, Szabo craved more artistic freedom and along with latin vibraphonist Cal Tjader and labelmate Gary MacFarland, he co-founded Skye Records in 1969. Propelled by MacFarland’s vibrant arrangements, Gabor was able to release the album he always envisionned the aptly titled Dreams.
This is the Szabo album that resonates the most with me because of the mellow and moody ambiance maintained throughout, as well as the choice to tackle a classical repertoire. Spanish composer Manuel DeFalla‘s work features twice and the playing of cellist George Ricci adds depth to the songs and smoothes out the records experimentation. Much like Szabo, Ricci was used to being in the background since his brother Ruggiero (who recorded a lot of Falla’s oeuvre) was a world-class virtuoso and child prodigy. However, a quick look at George’s body of work shows he has rubbed elbows with the top jazz players of his era.
Both Ricci and Szabo push boundaries on my favorite cut Lady in the Moon. I have spent many hazy nights gazing at the stars to the mournful sounds of this etheral Szabo composition. The classical training for both musicians is evident in the long introduction, but then the jazz swing takes over and while the song remains soft and lingering, the fiery drumming and Ricci’s jazz picking keep the flame burning. Szabo’s brings his razor sharp improvisation and lays down a great solo. The freedom Szabo felt is evident in his playing, but every note is at its place and this song captures the eery magic contained in this solid record; whose artwork alone is worth the price of admission. Although Skye Records closed shop only three years after its creation, it allowed resident artists to truly express their personal vision and produced musical gems that may have otherwise remained scattered across loose composition sheets.