Gabor Szabo Dedications

Many musicians – most especially guitarists – have reflected on Gabor Szabo’s distinctive influence in their music. Even today, four decades after his death, the guitarist’s influence happily remains positive, strong and enduring. Gabor Szabo has also inspired a number of dedications which bear his influence and the genuine affection for his guitar artistry. 

A.B. Skhy: Ramblin’ On (MGM/1970)

The second (and final) album of the San Francisco blues-rock group A.B. Skhy featured the tribute “Gazebo (Dedicated To Gabor Szabo).” Written by the group’s four members, Dennis Geyer, James Curley Cooke (who went on to play on Steve Miller’s biggest mid-1970s hits), Rick Jaeger (later, a popular West Coast studio musician) and Jim Marcotte, the album’s only instrumental traversed various aspects of Szabo’s often-eclectic performances (the drum solo seems out of place, though). It’s perceptive psychedelic jazz-rock – threatening to reach more toward country and, then, more toward Hendrix than Szabo would. But, nice overall. Cooke is the guitarist. (Reissued on CD in 2019 by the South Korean label Big Pink.)

Sansara Music Band: Plays The Music of Lars Färnlöf (1976)

The Sansara Music Band, featuring Lars Lars Färnlöf, Bernt Rosengren, Bobo Stenson, Thomas Ostergren and Sabu Martinez, presented a tribute to Gabor Szabo titled “Gabor’s Elephant Dance” on this 1976 album, reissued on Japanese CD in 2008. The song is actually just an inventive arrangement of Szabo’s own “Mizrab,” given a new title by credited composer, Lars Färnlöf.

Devadip Carlos Santana: Oneness – Silver Dreams Golden Reality (Columbia/1978)

In one of his less frequent “solo” recordings, Carlos Santana here produced what amounts to a spiritual concept album. The music, consciously less commercial than regular Santana band releases, still retains Santana’s well-polished familiarity yet places much of the musical prominence on Carlos Santana’s instrumental talents (often in conversation with Tom Coster’s synthesizers). The liner sleeve reproduces acknowledgements including: “This music is dedicated to Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Milton Nascimiento, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Gabor Szabo, Lyudmila Turishcheva, Billy Jean King, Cesar Chavez, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and to all the people who live in their hearts.” In addition to music by Alan Hovannes (!) and a theme derived from Gil Evans’ “Las Vegas Tango” (“Golden Dreams”), Santana also covers Chico Hamilton’s “Jim-Jeannie” – recorded by Hamilton in 1966 (on The Dealer) shortly after Gabor Szabo left the group.

Lee Ritenour: RIT/2 (Elektra 60186/Discovery 71017 [CD]/1982)

Noted on the liner sleeve: “This album is dedicated to GABOR SZABO – a great guitarist and musician whose music provided me hours of enjoyment and inspiration.”

Lajos Dudas: I Remember (Konnex/1984)

Hungarian clarinet-player Lajos Dudas performs his tribute “For Gabor” on this 1984 album with his band Sunshine State featuring Toto Blanke & Pannonton: Lajos Dudas (cl), Ernst Hartman (key), Toto Blanke (g), Teodossi Stoikov (el-b), Imre Koszegi (d, perc). Dudas also recorded the song with guitarist Phillipp van Endert in 2006 for his 2008 CD release, Jazz On Stage (JAZZsick).

Lee Ritenour: Stolen Moments (GRP Records/1990)

In one of his infrequent returns to “straight jazz,” the sometimes-wondrous, sometimes-anonymous studio guitarist Lee Ritenour produced an especially nice set of Wes Montgomery-influenced instrumentals in Stolen Moments. One may easily assume this melodic and well-played music is similar to what Gabor Szabo would be playing had he lived to record in the 90s (it’s not too difficult to imagine him plying his trade at GRP too). While Ritenour’s familiar style evinces seemingly little of Szabo’s influence, he offers a special thanks in the disc’s liner notes “to the following guitar players who’ve kept the “Jazz Guitar Flame” strong and inspired me for many years: Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall, Howard Roberts, Joe Pass and Gabor Szabo.” Drummer Harvey Mason, who plays on Szabo’s album Macho, accompanies Ritenour here and in their group Fourplay (which also features former Szabo associate, Bob James).

Santana: Sacred Fire: Live In South America (Polygram/1993)

Employing his talent for musical quotation, Carlos Santana provided something of a triptych of Gabor Szabo’s career during this 1993 performance. Santana’s well-known “Samba Pa Ti” here includes quotes from Charles Lloyd’s “Forest Flower–Sunset” as well as Bobby Womack’s “Breezin'” – both, in their original incarnations, featuring Gabor Szabo. In addition to Santana’s familiar “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” which made Szabo known to rock audiences, Santana quotes the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” a popular tune Szabo himself covered on the Jazz Raga album. Finally, Santana’s crowd-pleasing “Soul Sacrifice/Don’t Try This At Home” includes a quote from the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” which Szabo performed under Bob Thiele’s leadership in 1967 on the Light My Fire album (also included here is a brief quote from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme).

Abraxas Pool (Miramar/1998)

The members of the original Santana band – Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, Michael Shrieve, Michael Carabello and Jose “Chepito” Areas – reunited in 1998 and formed (with bassist Alphonso Johnson) the group Abraxas Pool. Their eponymous CD release features the Latin ballad, “Szabo,” a tribute written by Schon and Shrieve bearing the familiarity of a Santana jam with a hint of Szabo’s seventies-era ballad style.

Chico Hamilton: Heritage (Joyous Shout/2006)

In an amazing spate of four albums issued at the same time, Gabor Szabo’s former boss and octogenarian Chico Hamilton, sought to combine surviving former bandmates (ok, just trombonist George Bohanon) with his existing band to craft a tribute to influences and friends as well as a nod of sorts to where the music is headed. “One For Gabor,” featured on the fourth of these attractive, interesting and fairly excessive discs, is one of Hamilton’s such tributes. Hamilton’s wondrously talented current guitarist, Cary DeNigris, more or less stands in for Gabor, but sounds less like the guitarist of tribute (?) in sound and style here than he has elsewhere (check out this disc’s “Chicano Heritage” for slightly better evidence of what, if anything, DeNigris has picked up from – or cares about – Gabor). Interestingly, Kyle Eagle’s Wax Poetics-style notes don’t even credit this tune on the disc’s lineup. It’s an engaging performance nonetheless. But short of the players’ “channeling” of thoughts or feelings, the aural evidence has little whatsoever to do with Gabor Szabo. 

Chico Hamilton: It’s About Time (Joyous Shout/2008)

Chico Hamilton, revisiting the guitar-trio format which launched his solo career in 1955, gives a “Nod To Gabor,” with Cary DeNigris on guitar and Paul Ramsey on Fender bass. The oddly brief CD, almost an EP of sorts (perhaps a nod to the original 10″ release), gives 3 minutes and 19 seconds to the Szabo tribute heard here.

Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder: Live At Tost (Colorburst Soundfield/2008)

Drummer Michael Shrieve was the rhythmic force behind the classic Santana band (1969-74) and the one Carlos Santana credits with introducing the guitarist to the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane—quite something, since the guitarist has paid homage to both jazz legends many times since. Shrieve went onto to many other gigs that mixed the propulsive fury of rock with the challenging musicianship of jazz, including stints with Stomu Yamashta, the Rolling Stones, Klaus Schulze and others.

Ever the busy session player, Shrieve’s name isn’t as well known as it ought to be, despite his infrequent solo recordings. That should all change with Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder, an elegant jam band of the first order that mixes rock with jazz in equal and exciting measure. This beautifully conceived quintet takes its name from guitarist Gabor Szabo’s tune, which is best known from its brief appearance at the end of Santana’s hit, “Black Magic Woman.” Shrieve’s unit contains trumpeter John Fricke, offering a taste of 70s-era Miles, organist Joe Doria, guitarist Danny Godinez and bassist Farko Dosumov—all fellow Seattle residents. The band has a standing Monday night gig at the Seattle club Tost, where this exceptionally fine performance was recorded during February 2008.

Shrieve offers up some familiarity by reacquainting his audience with his own excellent “Every Step of the Way” and Gene Ammons’ “Jungle Strut.” While both retain their classic Santana groove, Shrieve gets to show off his young band’s intriguing personality by revealing some genuinely exciting playing. Shrieve also revisits his own “Moon Over You” and the unusual “Gole Sangem,” a tune he first explored in 1994. Two out-of-the-blue but convincingly appropriate selections surface from bassist Marc Johnson’s Right Brain Patrol (JMT, 1993)—”Inside Four Walls” and “They Love Me Fifteen Feet Away.”

This disc’s highlight, though, is undoubtedly Godinez’s beautiful “Flamingo,” whose open-ended structure recalls Szabo’s Latinesque melodic jam themes (e.g., “A Thousand Times”). Godinez sounds positively inspired and inspiring here and beautifully works in appropriate kudos to George Benson’s “Affirmation” as well.

Both Doria and Godinez get the lion’s share of solos, which is fine, given their exceptional talent. Organist Doria is an ideal accompanist, crossing the spacey near-free otherworldliness of Larry Young with the strong rock-ish foundation of Gregg Rollie. Guitarist Godinez has quite the career ahead of him, if this disc is any indication. He is a thoughtful and engaging player that pays props to the past (Santana, Larry Coryell, Szabo, Benson, Pat Metheny) while making it clear that he’s got something of his own to say. Few organ/guitar/drum groups have been this stimulating since John Abercrombie’s association with Dan Wall and Adam Nussbaum.

While Live at Tost is an excellent—if sadly too brief—introduction to this band, it only scratches the surface of what is hoped will be the start of something beautiful (their version of “Spellbinder,” which is not heard here, is indeed spellbinding)—a long and well-recorded career for Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder.

Causa Sui: Szabodelico (El Paraiso/2020)

The Danish quartet Causa Sui is an instrumental band that goes out of its way to defy categorization. Neither the sum of its influences – psych rock, Krautrock, indie rock, spiritual jazz, what have you – nor the result of a successful (or any) formula, Causa Sui is an exceptionally refreshing way to experience electric music. Since 2005, Causa Sui – whose name comes from a Latin phrase that beautifully suggests a thing which generates something from within itself – has waxed eight discs of largely instrumental music.

By all accounts, the band’s 2020 double album (single disc) Szabodelico is a departure. While previous efforts were workshopped or meticulously composed, Szabodelico was largely improvised. While the album gets its name from jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo, it is inspired more by the guitar legend’s approach to music than by his distinctive sound or iconic songbook.

Other than namechecking Gabor Szabo on “Gabor’s Path” and “Szabodelico,” the closest this record gets to appropriating the guitarist is on “Vibratone,” which launches itself off a variation of “Gypsy Queen,” and the title song, seemingly built upon a “Passin’ Thru”-like foundation. “Laetitia” – along with “Sole Elettrico,” among the disc’s best tracks (both also featuring Jans Aagaard on Bansuri Flute) – revels in the spacey 70s-era Charles Lloyd, a frequent Szabo associate.

To Causa Sui’s credit, Szabodelico relies more on Szabo the muse than Gabor the musician. Over a baker’s dozen songs – with evocative titles like “Echoes of Light” and “Merging Waters” that could have come right out of a film-music library or a David Lynch soundtrack – the band paints psychedelic soundscapes that have a positively hypnotic draw.