The Sorcerer (1967)
Gabor Szabo

  1. The Beat Goes On (Sonny Bono)
  2. Little Boat (Roberto Menescal/Ronaldo Boscoli)
  3. Lou-ise (Jimmy Stewart)
  4. What is This Thing Called Love (Cole Porter)
  5. Space (Gabor Szabo)
  6. Stronger Than Us (Francis Lai/Pierre Barough)
  7. Mizrab (Gabor Szabo)
  8. Comin’ Back (Clyde Otis/Gabor Szabo)

Gabor Szabo, Jimmy Stewart – guitar
Lajos “Louis” Kabok – bass  
Marty Morell – drums
Hal Gordon – percussion

Produced by Bob Thiele
Engineered by Reice Hamel
Liner notes by Nat Hentoff

Recorded live at the Jazz Workshop, Boston on April 14-15, 1967.

1 and 8 issued on LP in 1967 as Impulse A(S)-9146
1 (edit) and 5 (edit) issued on 45 as Impulse 45-263

Note: Impulse A(S)-9146 was reissued in April 2023 as a 180-gram vinyl pressing in Universal Music’s “Verve By Request” series (B0037202-01). At the same time, Third Man Records issued a limited-edition yellow vinyl pressing – and matching yellow cover – version of the record (TMR-925 + same Universal Music catalog number).

Gabor Szabo’s 1967-68 quintet, featuring classically-trained guitarist Jimmy Stewart, was one of the iconoclastic guitarist’s very best units. Live performances like this, recorded April 14 and 15, 1967, at Boston’s Jazz Workshop, document some of the exciting interplay the group stirred during its brief existence.

The quintet’s constants were the two guitarists with Szabo’s childhood friend from Hungary, bassist Louis Kabok, and percussionist Hal Gordon. The drummer’s chair, here filled by Marty Morell, was bound to be different every night; filled at various times by West Coasters Jim Keltner, Bill Goodwin, Dick Berk and others. 

The Sorcerer reveals how successfully the group was combining jazz with rock (the utterly lightweight “The Beat Goes On” and the Hendrix-like “Space,” sampled in 1988 by Madonna for “Mer Girl,” bossa nova (Little Boat” and “Corcovado”) and exotica (“Mizrab”).

The two guitarists creatively envelope listeners in just about any mood they explore. It is most apparent in the way they ignite the standards, “People” and “What Is This Thing Called Love.” The Sorcerer – likely the single most popular and best-known of Szabo’s records – is one of the best introductions to one of the most outstanding and unique guitarists to have emerged during the 1960s.

On “Mizrab”

This beguiling and iconoclastic song is named for the mizrab (or “mezrab”), a plectrum – or pick – worn on the finger in order to play the Indian sitar. According to guitarist Larry Coryell’s 2007 autobiography, Improvising, it was he who suggested the title to Szabo for “one of his Indo-jazz vamps.”

Szabo originally recorded “Mizrab” for his previous studio album, Jazz Raga (on which Coryell was supposed to appear), and the immediately appealing song quickly became part of the guitarist’s repertoire.

By the time of The Sorcerer, Szabo had merged the original theme of “Mizrab” with the lovely rhythm statement from his own “Flowers and Love,” which had appeared on the Steve Allen album Songs For Gentle People (1967), with Szabo as one of the featured guest soloists.

The version of “Mizrab” heard on The Sorcerer is the one that became one of Szabo’s two or three best-known songs. Szabo continued to perform “Mizrab” throughout the remainder of his career. He also re-recorded studio versions of “Mizrab” on Small World (1972) and, in a bravura turn, on Mizrab (1973). The song was later dubbed “Rising” as part of the documentary of that name filmed in 1974-75.

“Mizrab” has also since been covered by Lee Ritenour and Oscar Castro Neves (1974), Sansara Music Band (as “Gabor’s Elephant Dance” – 1976), Mike Thole (197?), Henry Kaiser’s Psychedelic Guitar Circus (1994), Lee Ritenour (2002, 2011) and Dan Sperber/Luke Casey (2002).

Blindfold Test

Szabo’s performance of “Little Boat” heard here was played by Leonard Feather for Herbie Mann in a Blindfold Test featured in the February 8, 1968, issue of DownBeat. Mann says of the performance, “(t)hat’s Gabor with Potato and Willie Bobo [sic – Hal Gordon] – I think – I think I recognize Potato and Willie Bobo’s playing. There was still a clash between the bass player and the regular drummer, and I don’t really feel that a conga drum really belongs in a bossa nova. If this is Gabor, he’s playing much better now than he was on that record. It didn’t sound like a Brazilian bossa nova, definitely. I can’t truthfully see timbales and a conga drum on a bossa nova. I have done exactly the same thing, and I’m the first to admit it was wrong. I wouldn’t want to rate this.”