Live At The Old Roller Rink (1976)
Gabor Szabo Quartet

  1. (Gabor Szabo introduces band)
  2. Emily (Johnny Mandel)
  3. Breezin’ (Bobby Womack)
  4. Rita (George Cables)
  5. Comin’ Back (Gabor Szabo/Clyde Otis)
  6. It Happens (Tony Dumas)
  7. I Thought About You (Jimmy Van Heusen)
  8. Concorde (Nightflight) (Gabor Szabo/Ritchie Rome)

Gabor Szabo – guitar (except 4)
George Cables – piano (1, 2, 4, 7), electric piano (3, 5, 6, 8)
Tony Dumas – bass
Carl Burnette – drums  

Produced by Gary Barclay
Engineered by David Faison with technical assistance from Bruce Forsyth

Recorded live at the Old Roller Rink, North Vancouver, British Columbia on November 18, 1976

(Originally broadcast on CHQM AM/FM)

Revealing the still intact elegance of Szabo’s ‘sorcery,’ Gary Barclay’s recording is pure, beautiful jazz unencumbered by the commands of contemporary constraints. This well-recorded document, produced for live radio broadcast, invites the listener into a more intimate space than Szabo’s increasingly commercial recordings permitted.

Accompanied by Freddie Hubbard’s former rhythm section, Szabo performs an inspired and lyrical set here; providing evidence that his performances could stir more excitement than many of his then-recent studio recordings. Pianist Cables interacts especially well with Szabo; reminding us how infrequently the guitarist was heard on record with pianists – especially one as resourceful as Cables.

Opening with Johnny Mandel’s “Emily,” a song Szabo performed often, yet never recorded, the guitarist states the lyrical theme accompanied by only Dumas’ electric walking. Cables then enters to solo with the rhythm section whipping up a mood reminiscent of Bill Evans (who often performed this tune).

“Breezin'” – familiar to anyone who listened to the radio in 1976 – is given a samba and funk treatment and benefits from the interesting solos of Szabo and Cables. Szabo says here that Womack’s song is “an original composition by Bobby Womack and myself.” Later, he’d claim he wrote the tune (it’s very possible that his contribution to the tune is greater than the credit he is given for it).

Surprisingly, Szabo then turns the stage over to Cables for a solo piano performance of his complex and heartfelt “Rita.” Originally recorded on Cables’ 1975 solo debut with the same rhythm section, the song cascades emotionally through majors and minors with a deft swiftness familiar in Chick Corea’s acoustic solo forays. A brief, funky version of “Comin’ Back” follows.

Following an intermission of sorts, the band returns and performs even more cohesively.

Beginning with a Szaboesque amalgam of Latin funk (“It Happens” – a sort of mixture of “Macho” and “24 Carat” featuring Cables on electric keyboards) to a club-quality performance of the standard, “I Thought About You” (with Cables on piano and Szabo exchanging intriguing ideas of intimacy), the set closes with the moody, “Concorde (Night Flight).”

It becomes apparent, especially here, that Szabo shares so much of the spotlight with Cables that the performance feels like a double feature. Cables often solos with much more conviction than Szabo, but often spurs the guitarist to act and react with inspired intelligence.

This wonderful recording richly deserves to be heard. It is a flattering portrait of the artist and the artistry which Gabor Szabo could generate. His associates are ideal here, providing a foundation for invention which the illusion of string sections, voices and disco rhythms could never inspire. The beauty of Szabo’s simplicity paired with the individuality of such talented musicians brings this occasion to life.