Rising (1974-75)

This fascinating thirty-minute documentary film would have provided a rare opportunity for jazz fans of the day to explore the musical life of Gabor Szabo. But it was never officially released. Fortunately, Gabor’s brother John has made it available via YouTube.

Filmed by University of Southern California student Larry Bock at the guitarist’s Hollywood home and in performance at the famed Lighthouse club in Hermosa Beach during late 1974 and early 1975, Rising was fraught with production difficulties that prevented completion of the film until 1977. Bock, who wrote, directed, edited and animated the film, was left with only one 16-millimeter print and, thus, not able to catalog his thesis project at the USC student film archives and, ultimately, the film was never released.

Rising is, however, a lovingly assembled work that allows Szabo to talk about his music and shows the guitarist performing in a variety of interesting aggregates. Scenes shot with Charles Lloyd and Bob James were not included to keep the film at thirty minutes. But Rising does provide the one and only opportunity to briefly witness Szabo’s often lauded, though never-recorded Perfect Circle group featuring reedman Tony Ortega.

The narrative here avoids biographical chronicling in favor of the guitarist’s creative beliefs and the musical ideals to which he aspires.

Several familiar Szabo pieces are featured. But it is the standard “My Foolish Heart” (a favorite Szabo sketchpad) and originals “Mizrab” (called “Rising” here for some reason) and “Thirteen” which stand out. A most pleasant surprise, though, is hearing Szabo on a few bars of Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” accompanied only by bass.

So many musical moments, though, are explored in the film’s half hour that it is not possible to hear Szabo or his various groups explore any one performance with any great detail.

Bock, who today is a feature-film editor (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Santa Clause) offers an exceptional portrait of Gabor Szabo in Rising as a jazz celebrity and a musician who’s passionate about his art.