1965 – 1966

These were, perhaps, the most pivotal and decisive years in Gabor Szabo’s career. The guitarist flowered from mere player to recognized musical force during this time. He recorded prolifically throughout this time, initiated his own career and committed some of his strongest work ever to record. He challenged himself to a variety of musical styles, succeeding comfortably in all — and never once losing an identity which was becoming clearer and clearer.

Fresh from scoring his DownBeat award for Talent Deserving Wider Recognition in 1964, Szabo began 1965 prominently featured as principal soloist and primary composer for Chico Hamilton’s Chic Chic Chico recording. Then on February 10, Szabo and his wife, Alicia, welcomed their son, Blaise, to the world.

While Szabo would continue to actively record with Hamilton for the next year and a half, he formally left the Hamilton group, along with Jimmy Woods, in April 1965. Szabo would be replaced in mid-1966 by Larry Coryell, a young rock-oriented guitarist more or less discovered by Bob Thiele as part of the jazz-rock group, Free Spirits (ABC ABC593). It was Thiele who introduced Coryell to Hamilton. From these early records to those with Gary Burton and his own, Coryell evinced a rough-edged blues tone that swallowed a world of influences. It seemed effortless for him to recreate the difficult ‘Szabo sound’ — as well as an arsenal of alternative approaches. But his interests disallowed resting on one style of playing or music for too long. Over the years Coryell would continue to dabble in different groupings and radical shifts in style; Jimi Hendrix would soon endure a profound effect on Coryell too. But he eventually developed a more personal way of expression which now remains consistent as his environments continue to shift.

Coryell’s brief six-month stay in the Hamilton band often overshadows Szabo’s longer and more significant achievements in the group. This is probably due to the recognition Coryell earned over the years with the quantity and variety of his own projects and an ongoing willingness to be involved in a support role with important leaders (Michael Mantler, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker). Still, Coryell credits Szabo “with reminding him of the importance of balancing technique with musicality” (Jazz Portraits; Len Lyons and Dan Perlo: Quill/William Morrow; 1989).

Charles Lloyd Quartet (March 1965): Charles Lloyd (ts,f); Gabor Szabo (g); Ron Carter (b); Tony Williams (d): see Of Course, Of Course.

Gabor Szabo’s first major role outside of the Hamilton fold was with former compadre and like-minded musical spirit, Charles Lloyd. Szabo accepted Lloyd’s invitation to be a part of a supergroup quartet greatly benefited by Miles Davis’ incredible rhythm wizards, Ron Carter (b) and Tony Williams (d). After learning and growing within the freedom that Hamilton offered his players, Szabo was clearly intrigued by the greater freedoms Charles Lloyd was seeking with his music. In addition to sharing a certain synergy (which Szabo felt was the resulting of arriving “at a point when we’d served each other’s purposes”), the contrasts between the two were notable. Lloyd’s tones on tenor were cooled and smoothed by Szabo’s elegant melodicism at one turn. At another, Szabo could seduce the innocence and sweetness in Lloyd’s flute work with a fiery, mature sophistication. Moving it all along was Ron Carter’s incomparable one-man symphonies on stringed bass and Williams’ subtle percussion arsenal. Though Lloyd would gain attention, accolades – even fame – for his later quartet with Keith Jarrett, this remains one of the most fascinating aggregates in modern jazz – four uniquely talented individuals exploring new ideas, on the verge of entering uncharted worlds.

Gary McFarland Quintet (May 1965): Sadao Watanabe (ts,f), Gary McFarland (vib,vcl), Gabor Szabo (g); Eddie Gomez (b); Joe Cocuzzo (d); Gary McFarland (vib,vcl).

Gary McFarland’s Soft Samba (Verve V/V6-8603) became so popular in 1964 that McFarland was afforded the opportunity to form his first touring group. Gabor Szabo, looking to expand his musical vocabulary and enchanted by the jazz potential of popular music, was invited by McFarland to join and in May 1965, the Gary McFarland Quintet was formed. Other group members included fellow Berklee alumni, reedplayer Sadao Watanabe; bassist Eddie Gomez (who at age 14 performed with the International Youth Band that played Newport the year after Szabo) and drummer Joe Cocuzzo, a frequent McFarland studio collaborator. A May 12, 1965, performance at Shelly’s Manne Hole, Los Angeles, received positive notices (“outstanding arrangements and inspired soloing”) from both Variety (May 19, 1965) and Down Beat (July 29, 1965). The performance included many of the songs featured on SOFT SAMBA — “Emily,” “Climb Every Mountain,” “California, Here I Come,” “La Vie en Rose,” “Love Goddess,” “Morning of the Carnival,” “And I Love Her” — as well as Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time” (probably included at Watanabe’s request) and McFarland’s “Weep.” Unfortunately, no known recordings of this group seem to exist.

Gary McFarland Quintet (June 24 and July 1, 1965): Sadao Watanabe (ts, f), Gary McFarland (vib, vcl), Gabor Szabo (g); Eddie Gomez (b); Joe Cocuzzo (d): see This Is Gary McFarland.

Charles Lloyd Quartet (July 1965): Charles Lloyd (ts, f); Gabor Szabo (g); Ron Carter (b); Joe Chambers (d): this is possibly the Slug’s Salon show captured on Manhattan Stories.

Charles Lloyd formally left the Cannonball Adderley Sextet to debut his own quartet at Slug’s Salon on July 27, 1965. The week-long engagement featured the tenor saxophonist and flutist with guitarist and former Chico Hamilton associate Gabor Szabo as well as bassist Ron Carter and drummer Joe Chambers. In an August 26, 1965, column, Down Beat quoted Cannonball Adderley as saying “Charles leaves with my thanks for his fine contributions to the group and with my best wishes for what I know will be his future success on his own.” The Down Beat notice, while only part of a column (“Strictly Ad Lib — Potpourri”), makes no mention of the performances.

Charles Lloyd Quartet (Judson Hall, New York City: September 3, 1965): Charles Lloyd (ts,f–1); Gabor Szabo (g); Ron Carter (b); Pete LaRoca Sims (d): see Manhattan Stories.

This performance was taped with Charles Lloyd’s permission by George Klabin of WKCR FM. The quartet performed three tunes, Lloyd’s “Sweet Georgia Bright,” “How Can I Tell” and Szabo’s “Lady Gabor” and was followed by critic Don Heckman’s group (also recorded). Szabo left what he called Lloyd’s “supergroup” in late 1965, to dedicate himself fully to his own solo career. While the two had shared a symbiotic musical relationship for nearly five years, Szabo confessed that he’d arrived at a point where he desired a return to his musical roots and a direction that was more romantic and less complex. “I was more economical with my notes,” said Szabo in a 1979 Crescendo article; “Charles was into a much more furious energy kind of music than I was. So he went his way, and ever since then I’ve been having my own groups.”

The Gary McFarland Orchestra (Lincoln Center Philharmonic Hall, New York: February 6, 1966): Clark Terry, Joe Newman, Bernie Glow, Bill Berry, John Frosk (tp,flg); Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Bob Northern (fhr); Jay McAllister (tuba); Phil Woods (as,cl); Jerry Dodgion (as,cl,fl); Zoot Sims (ts,cl); Richie Kamuca (ts,bs,bcl,ehr); Jerome Richardson (bs,as,ss,cl,bcl,fl,pic); Gabor Szabo, Sam Brown (g); Richard Davis (b); Joe Cocuzzo (d) Tommy Lopez (per); Gary McFarland (arr,con, vib, marimba): see Profiles.

Gary McFarland Quintet(February 1966): Gabor Szabo, poss. Sam Brown (g); Richard Davis (b); Joe Cocuzzo (d); Gary McFarland (vib).

Lena Horne (The Sands, Las Vegas: October 1966): Gerald Wiggins (p); Gabor Szabo (g); Albert Stinson (b); Lena Horne (vcl).