Gabor Szabo The Commodity

Gabor Szabo, like any other professional musician, had his favorite guitar (a Martin), his favorite picks and his favorite amplifiers. Apparently he even favored electronic harpsichords, too. Uh huh.

In any case, when he became something of a sensation in jazz during the mid-60s, Gabor Szabo began receiving many endorsement offers, from manufacturers he favored and those who aimed to manufacture his support.

For example, a company called Maestro sent Szabo one of the first guitar synthesizers ever produced. But he didn’t like it much. Although he had planned to use the guitar synthesizer for a recording, he could not become accustomed to its “Mickey Mouse sound.”

This section includes ads where Szabo is either featured as pitchman or his recordings are being pitched. The last entry is dated 1971; therefore, clearly indicating that Gabor Szabo’s weight as a commodity ended very early in the seventies.

Impulse Records

“The House That Jazz Built” (Jazz: August 1966): features the Impulse sleeves of the McFarland/Szabo Simpatico and Szabo’s Gypsy ’66, the Szabo sessions of Gary McFarland’s Profiles and Chico Hamilton’s The Further Adventures Of El Chico as well as the sleeves of Shirley Scott’s Roll ‘Em, Benny Carter’s Additions To Further Definitions, Yusef Lateef’s A Flat, G Flat And C and John Coltrane’s Meditations. (Following Coltrane’s death in 1967, Impulse ran an ad similarly titled “The House That Trane Built,” a title borrowed for the 2006 Ashley Kahn book on the Impulse label.)

Toby Amplifiers

Around mid-1966, Szabo’s endorsement for Toby amplifiers – which he actually used – began appearing in advertisements in music and jazz-music periodicals. He is also seen with the amplifier on the sleeves of, coincidentally, the compilation albums, The Best Of Gabor Szabo and His Great Hits. The guitarist really did like the way the cylindrical Toby amps produced sound around the sides and used the product until he switched in the early 70s to Fender amps.

Norman Schwartz Management

“Happy Birthday!” — Norman Schwartz Management, on behalf of it’s clients Gabor Szabo, Gary McFarland and Steve Kuhn, offers birthday greetings to Jazz magazine in the October 1966 issue of the periodical.

Impulse Records

“Up Front — The New Jazz Albums on Impulse” (Jazz: November 1966): Features the Impulse sleeves of Gabor Szabo’s Spellbinder (“A jazz odyssey of Latin rhythmic and textural eloquence as only Gabor Szabo can communicate it — with pulsation, lyricism and aesthetic self-expression.”) as well as Clark Terry/Chico O’Farrill’s Spanish Rice, Roswell Rudd’s Everywhere and Archie Shepp’s Live In San Francisco.

“Chock Full O’Chico” (DownBeat: December 16, 1966): Features “Chico Hamilton at his spirited best” with the Impulse sleeves of The Further Adventures Of El Chico, El Chico, Chic Chic Chico, Man From Two Worlds and Passin’ Thru.

“10 reasons why this is the year of jazz on Impulse” (Jazz: March 1967): Features the Impulse sleeves of Gabor Szabo’s Jazz Raga as well as John Coltrane’s Kulu Se Mama, Shirley Scott’s On A Clear Day, Stanley Turrentine’s Let It Go, Sonny Rollins’ East Broadway Rundown, Yusef Lateef’s The Golden Flute, Hank Jones/Oliver Nelson’s Happenings, Chico Hamilton’s The Dealer, Steve Kuhn/Gary McFarland’s The October Suite and Chico O’Farrill’s Nine Flags.

“Jazz Magic: Gabor Szabo’s “SPELLBINDER” — the biggest sound in jazz today” (DownBeat: April 20, 1967): Pictures Gabor Szabo (on his Toby amplifier) and features the sleeves of Spellbinder and “Gabor’s latest magic…,” Jazz Raga.

“Impulse & ABC Top the Jazz Readers Poll” (Jazz: May 1967): Congratulations to the Impulse and ABC artists who finished in the top 5 of their respective categories in the Jazz magazine reader’s poll (Gabor Szabo, John Coltrane, Roswell Rudd, Sonny Rollins, Yusef Lateef, Shirley Scott, Oliver Nelson, Gary McFarland and Ray Charles). Sleeves of recent Impulse/ABC releases are also featured including Gabor Szabo’s Jazz Raga and Gary McFarland’s Profiles.

“The ABCs of Pop” (Jazz and Pop: August 1967): Features the sleeves of Gabor Szabo’s Jazz Raga as well as Ray Charles’ Listen, Bob Thiele’s Thoroughly Modern, B.B. King’s Blues Is King and releases by Tommy Roe, the Sonics, Dion & the Belmonts, the Impressions, the Mamas & the Papas and the Brass Ring.

“The Wizard of Jazz — Gabor Szabo — Performs Magic on Impulse” (DownBeat: October 5, 1967): Features the sleeves of Szabo’s Jazz RagaSpellbinder and Gypsy ’66 as well as John Coltrane’s Expression, Pee Wee Russell/Henry Red Allen’s The College Concert, Dizzy Gillespie’s Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac, Al “Jazzbo” Collins’ A Lovely Bunch Of, Joe Turner’s Singing The Blues, T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday Blues and Jimmy Reed’s Soulin’.

“Spice Up Your Life. Season With B.B. King, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Gabor Szabo and ABC Records” (Jazz and Pop: February 1968): Features the sleeves of John Coltrane’s OM, Gabor Szabo’s Wind Sky And Diamonds, Oliver Nelson’s Live From Los Angeles, Tom Scott’s The Honey Suckle Breeze, Bill Plummer’s Cosmic Brotherhood, Shirley Scott/Clark Terry’s Soul Duo, Bob Thiele’s Light My Fire, Albert Ayler’s Love Cry, B.B. King’s Blues On Top Of Blues, The Dirty Blues Band, Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man and T-Bone Walker’s Funky Town.

Gibson Strings

“Gibson, the workingman’s guitar” (DownBeat: March 7, 1968): Gabor Szabo is pictured in his famous performing crouch, implying the magic emanating from his guitar. The tag line: “Gabor Szabo & Gibson [emphasis theirs] at work for Impulse records.” (He was already recording for his own Skye Recordings label when this ad appeared). When asked in an October 1969 Guitar Player interview what type of strings he favored, Szabo replied, “It varies, but mainly I use Gibson strings, the medium, flat wounds…the 040’s.” Guitarist and close friend Jimmy Stewart confirmed that Szabo maintained his affinity for Gibson strings throughout his career.

Impulse Records

“Hang your favorite with his latest” (Jazz and Pop: April 1968): Like Blue Note Records when it was acquired by Liberty in 1968, Impulse Records lost much of its unique look when it was swallowed up by ABC Records in 1967. Gone were Charles Stewart’s distinctive photography and striking, yet simple Helvetica type titles in bold colors on primary-color backgrounds. Time to cash in on money-making rock fads – like the hippy designs made famous in San Francisco during the Summer of Love. Why? The hope of generating more return on their investment, of course. Banking on the idea that “flower power” had dollar power, Impulse straight-jacketed its artists with love beads and transcendental aura, man. Promoting a “free poster offer” here, Impulse matched the covers of six recent releases and offered the reproductions to anyone who wrote in and requested one. (CTI Records would repeat the same offer throughout the seventies for reproductions of Pete Turner’s beautiful cover art — asking as much as $20 per print). Featured in this ad are the sleeves and accompanying posters for The Dirty Blues Band, Albert Ayler’s Love Cry, John Coltrane’s Om, Gabor Szabo’s Wind Sky And Diamonds, Tom Scott’s Honeysuckle Breeze and Bill Plummer’s Cosmic Brotherhood.

“Surprise Bag!” (Jazz and Pop: July 1968): A full-page ad featuring Bob Thiele playing his Selmer Varitone clarinet in support of his release, Light My Fire (which does not feature Thiele’s or anybody else’s clarinet playing), highlighted by critical raves from the New York Times, East Village Other, Jazz & Pop and Hitkit Magazine.

RMI (Rocky Mount Instruments, Inc.) Rock-Si-Chord

Szabo’s peculiar endorsement of the RMI Rock-Si-Chord began appearing in periodical advertisements around April 1968 (Jazz and Pop). He is seen in some ads posing with the keyboard – an electronic harpsichord Steve Allen noodled on and the same one often used by Sun Ra during the seventies. In one ad, featured in the September 1968 issue of Jazz and Pop magazine, Szabo is actually seen playing the electric harpsichord. The ad claims “he’s making with the swinging sound” and purports that it is featured on Szabo’s “latest album, The Best Of Gabor Szabo.” While this seems highly unlikely, the instrument is, however, listed by name on the sleeve of the Wind Sky And Diamonds album as the type of harpsichord Mike Melvoin presumably plays.

Gibson Strings

This one-column ad ran frequently during 1968 and 1969 in music publications and featured the images of Judy Lynn, Larry Coryell, Gabor Szabo and Trini Lopez and copy which simply read, “Gibson Strings: The Workingman’s String.”

Coral Electric Sitar

“From Jazz to Pop to Raga Rock” proclaims this 1968 ad for Coral electric sitars. Includes photos and quotes from Szabo, Richie Havens, The Cyrkle, Henry Mancini with Bob Bain, Al Nichol (The Turtles) and Don Costa

Berklee School of Music

A series of one-column ads which ran in music publications throughout the sixties and seventies. Three or four musicians were pictured as those “(a)mong the many Berklee alumni currently active professionally.” These pictures changed as frequently as styles, fads and tastes. In one set, Gary McFarland, Gary Burton, Gabor Szabo, Quincy Jones and Charlie Mariano are pictured. Mr. Szabo was also featured in other Berklee groupings during the latter half of the 1960s. For the record, Szabo attended Berklee for two years, but never graduated. At the time, this was pretty common. Miles Davis was a favorite “alumni” choice for Berklee ads — though he, too, quit the school well before graduating. Today, as the Berklee College of Music, students are much more likely to complete their coursework.

Blue Thumb Records

In a truly astounding work of advertising acumen, Blue Thumb Records presented a mini-fable of a bearded dwarf in search of the “Meaning of Life” to promote its handful of new releases (Jazz and Pop: January 1971). Upon his way, the “young man” trips over the purplest acid-laced prose, encountering Donato’s A Bad Donato, Love’s False Start, Buddy And The Juniors and Gabor Szabo’s Magical Connection. The young man finally rejects a bearded panhandler’s request for a cup of coffee in his zealous quest for Szabo’s album. After “hours of huffing and puffing” up a large mountain, the young man discovers “a blue thumb protruding suggestively from a bed of red geraniums” and asks “(i)s nothing sacred anymore?” With all due respect to Tod Browning’s, Freaks, apparently not. Must see to believe.

Matáv

This limited edition telefoncard of the Matáv (Hungarian Telecom) was issued in Hungary in November 2002 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Gabor Szabo’s death. A brief biography of Szabo is provided on the card’s back side, more or less saying (in Hungarian): Szabó Gábor (1936-1982) gitáros mûvészetét a cigányzene és a jazz szintetizálása jellmzi. Az egyesûlt Államokban kezdetben Chico Hamilton egyûttesében játszott, zenéje nagy hatással volt Charles Lloyd tenorszaxofonos munkásságára. A Gipsy Queen címû darabja igazi jazzsláger, melyet Carlos Santana is többször feldolgozott.