Gábor Szabó, A Tribute: With The Ádám Török & Ádám Fehér DUÓ – Special Guest Károly Németh (2022)

On September 10, 2022, Italian-Hungarian author and journalist Stefano Orlando Puracchio presented his book Gábor Szabó – il jazzista dimenticato at the Virág Benedek house of culture in Budapest, Hungary. The bilingual event (in Hungarian and Italian) was moderated by Andrea Parente and translated by Istvan Cobino.

The presentation was followed by a musical tribute to Gábor Szabó by the Ádám Török & Ádám Fehér Duó with special guest Károly Németh.

Ádám Török – who passed away only seven months after this performance in April 2023 at age 75 – was a Hungarian flautist, vocalist and lyricist, who was a legend in European prog-rock circles and founder of the jazz-rock group Mini. Török, who played with Gábor in a 1974 jam session, regularly featured Szabó-related material in his repertoire.

For several years prior to this event, Török played in a duo setting with teenaged guitar prodigy Ádám Fehér, who recorded his first solo album – Fehér Ádám Blues Factory – Taking Off – at age 11(!). Fehér considers himself a blues guitarist, but he skillfully handles such realms as rock, rockabilly and, as is clearly evident here, jazz…with considerable authority.

Joining the Török-Fehér duo here on electric piano is special guest and Török’s longtime Mini-mate Károly Németh.

The program is scandalously brief, but appealing for what it is. The superbly-talented Fehér is given the solo spotlight on “Mizrab,” surely one of Szabó’s signature tunes, and the younger guitarist is, well, simply amazing: the composer gets his due from Fehér while the player takes it to a whole new level of appreciation, ingenuity and creativity with his lovingly effort-less style.

Charles Lloyd’s familiar “Sombrero Sam,” a funky tune that was part of Lloyd’s post-Szabó quartet in the sixties (the two were captured together on the tune for a live 1972 recording under Szabó’s name, Gabor Szabo Live), gets a lively performance. It’s the only time all three players play together.

Perhaps the all-too short set’s second-best choice here is “Evening in the Country.” This mesmerizing piece is based on “Este a szekelyeknel” (a.k.a. “Evening in Transylvania,” or “Evening with the Szeklers” and “Evening in the Village”) from Belá Bartók’s orchestral suite Hungarian Pictures (also, Hungarian Sketches). It was originally recorded for Szabó’s 1975 album Macho, but not heard until the original album’s 2003 release on CD.

Török and Németh are unquestionably superb here. But, for some strange reason, Fehér is given absolutely nothing to do. Why? He sits there, looking bored. Why on earth would no one give this incredible young guitarist a chance to comp or solo on a tune that the older guitarist reflected on so beautifully?

My wish is that this set could have been much longer. But my hope is that the young Ádám Fehér might some day consider recording his very own tribute to Gábor Szabó.