b. March 8, 1936
d. February 26, 1982
|Much can be
learned about an artist through an obituary. One is apt
to discover less about the individual than the culture in
which -- or for which -- he or she contributed. Astute
readers may even gather more detail about the obituary's
writer (or the publisher) as well.
While Gabor Szabo was eulogized by several
well-known writers -- like Leonard Feather, an early and
avid supporter -- only the British Jazz Journal's
J. Nethercott seemed to honor Gabor Szabo's memory with a
tribute to his art.
In collecting the following obituaries,
a beneficial understanding of Gabor Szabo and his music
may become apparent. The entire content of each obituary,
where available, is provided (and, in some cases,
translated) with inaccurate or incorrect references
noted. Obituaries are listed chronologically.
17, 1982, p. 173
Gabor Szabo, age unreported,
Hungarian-born guitarist, a Freedom Fighter who
learned jazz by listening to the Voice of America
before fleeing his country in 1956, died Feb. 26 in
His brother, John Szabo, of Texas
said the guitarist, known for his blend of ethnic
melodies and American Jazz, had been hospitalized in
December for liver and kidney problems. Szabo had
gone to Hungary in July to produce a record album.
Initially finding it difficult to
break into the U.S. jazz scene, Szabo formed his own
group in the mid-1960s and produced albums that
included "Spellbinder," "Jazz
Raga" and "Sorcerer." In 1965 he did
the score for Roman Polanski's "Repulsion."
Among his later performances was a
command performance at the London Palladium, a
concert in Carnegie Hall and, in 1974, a TV special
filmed in his native Hungary.
In the late 1970s he joined the
Church of Scientology, performing charity concerts
for a Scientology-sponsored drug rehabilitation
program and also signed to be repped by Vanguard
Artists International, which was head by Scientology.
In February, 1980 he filed a
$21,000,000-lawsuit against both parties, accusing
them of misappropriating his money and mismanagement
of his career. The suit was dropped a year later.
Critics have said Szabo's style
favored a melodic approach rather than the chordal
manner of most guitarists, noting that his virtuosity
seemed to turn his guitar into a sitar, mandolin or
even two guitars playing at the same time.
In addition to his brother, Szabo
is survived by a son.
20, 1982, p. 70
Szabo, 45, guitarist, of liver and kidney ailments
Feb. 26 in Budapest. Born in Hungary, and inspired by
U.S. "Voice of America" broadcasts, he came
to the U.S. in the late 1950s and after several
years, established himself as one of the most gifted
guitar players. He made numerous records. Szabo
returned to Hungary last July and was producing
albums when he became ill in December. He is survived
by a son, Blaise, and a brother, John Szabo, who
resides in Texas.
March 27, 1982, p.42
1982, p. 62
Gabor Szabo died Feb. 26, in
Budapest of liver and kidney ailments. He was 45.
Journalen; April 1982, p. 4
by Leonard Feather (translated from Swedish)
In Memoriam: Gabor Szabo --
March 8, 1936-February 26, 1982
Gabor Szabo, who fled to America in
1956 during the Hungarian Revolution, died on the
26th of February in a hospital in Budapest, according
to his brother, John Szabo, who lives in Texas. The
death occurred a week before his 46th birthday. He
had been hospitalized since December 1981 with liver
and kidney ailments.
Szabo, who played at Newport with
the International Band in 1958 and later moved to San
Bernadino, California, found it very difficult to get
a job as a musician so he found himself working in
property management for an entire year. He first
became known when he joined the Chico Hamilton
quintet in 1961. After playing with the Hamilton
group for four years and for a time with Gary
McFarland and later with Charles Lloyd, in 1966 he
formed the first of many groups under his own name.
He lived in Los Angeles after 1970.
Szabo was a gifted composer and
wrote the score for Roman Polanski's film
"Compulsion" [sic]. His best known
LP-albums were, among others,
"Spellbinder," "The Sorcerer" and
the well-known album he produced with Lena Horne.
Szabo joined the Church of
Scientology in the late 1970s and organized charity
concerts for Narconon (one of the Church of
Scientology's units, a rehabilitation group). He
later wrote for one of the church-directed talented
agencies, but became disillusioned. In 1980 he joined
in a suit for $21 million charging the church and the
agencies with abuse of their financial
responsibilities. The suit failed to survive
arbitration. Later that year he announced his
retirement. Szabo returned to Budapest early last
summer to produce an album. He had planned to return
to the USA this summer.
April 1982, p. 36
(translated from German)
On March 1st [sic], Gabor Szabo
died in his native country in Budapest at the age of
45. Szabo emigrated from Hungary to the U.S. in 1956,
studied at Berklee College of Music, Boston, from
1957-1959, and worked after that with Toshiko
Akiyoshi, Chico Hamilton, Charles Lloyd, Gary
McFarland and Cal Tjader. Additionally, he performed
with groups of his own, one of which named
"Perfect Circle" because it contained
elements of chamber music, jazz and rock. Szabo
became also known as a composer; he wrote, for
instance, several movie soundtracks, among others for
Roman Polanski's "Disgust" [sic]. During
the last years, only little was heard of Szabo
internationally because he was participating more
strongly in musical life in Hungary and, as a result,
released the record "Femme Fatale" there
May 1982, p. 21
(translated from French)
Szabo died on February 26th in Budapest. He was
hospitalized last December with continuing liver and
kidney problems. A virtuoso guitarist, born in
Hungary 45 years ago, he emigrated to the United
States and played with Chico Hamilton, Gary
McFarland, Charles Lloyd . . .
Coda; June 1,
1992, p. 39
Down Beat; June
1982, p. 13
by Herb Wong
Final Bar: Gabor Szabo, Hungarian
guitarist, died in Budapest Feb. 26 of liver and
kidney ailments. He was 45. Szabo came to the U.S. in
the late '50s and recorded extensively during the
'60s and '70s with Charles Lloyd, Lena Horne and as a
leader. He shared the db (Down Beat) Critics
Poll TDWR (Talent Deserving Wider Recognition) award
in '64 with Attila Zoller. Szabo had returned to his
native land last July and was producing albums when
he first became ill.
by Lucienne O'Connor
In Memoriam: Probably
best known for his uncanny ability to blend jazz with
Eastern, rock and blues influences, Gabor Szabo
passed away on February 26, 1982, in his native
Budapest, Hungary. During the '60s he gained
prominence in drummer Chico Hamilton's quartet,
winning the Downbeat Best New Jazz Guitarist award
[sic] jointly with Atilla [sic] Zoller in 1964. More
recently, Gabor had been working in LA, recording
solo LPs as well as playing on numerous sessions and
TV spots. Guitar Player articles on Szabo
can be found in the following issues: Oct. and Dec.
'69, Feb. '71, and Jul. '75.
December 1982, p. 7
by J. Nethercott
Gabor Szabo: Guitarist, Gabor
Szabo, who died in Budapest earlier this year, aged
45, was entirely self taught from the age of 14, when
he got his first guitar for Christmas. The only
belonging he carried out of Hungary when he fled the
country after the revolution in 1956 was his guitar.
In America he went to the Berklee School of Music in
Boston, where he met Chico Hamilton in 1958. Later he
joined Hamilton's group, Charles Lloyd's group etc.
Then he formed his own group. In the sixties, he
lived and played mostly on the West Coast. He
recorded many albums for Impulse ('Gypsy 66',
'Simpatico', 'Spellbinder', 'Jazz Raga', 'The
Sorcerer', 'Wind, Sky and Diamond', 'Light My Fire',
'More Sorcery'). Also The Skye Label ('Bacchanal',
'Dreams', 'Gabor Szabo 69', etc) and later with many
more record labels. His last album was made for
Peptih [sic] International Records in Hollywood with
Chick Corea and has yet to be released, In the early
seventies, he gave guitar workshop classes at various
About himself he said: 'Music is a
very personal thing -- you want to sound different. I
came a little bit the other way around, I didn't want
to sound different, but I happened to sound
different, now I don't want to change.'
A completely unorthodox musician,
his qualities were his beautiful sound, unique use of
space, the ability to play complete melodies with
feedback, and the compassionate feeling that runs
through all his work. This for me made him the most
original and compelling guitarist playing today and
along with Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Wes
Montgomery, Jimi Hendryx and Derek Bailey one of the
musicians in the history of that instrument whose
voice has not been heard before.