Ga­bor Sz­abo ‘Dreams’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS - Donal Di­neen

Ga­bor Sz­abo’s up­bring­ing in Com­mu­nist Hun­gary was dif­fi­cult and mu­sic was his es­cape. He grew up to be a man of strength with a fa­tal weak­ness. In his early years, he vo­ra­ciously con­sumed all the ex­cit­ing and ex­otic jazz sounds com­ing from the Voice of Amer­ica broad­casts. By the time he fled Bu­dapest in 1956 as Rus­sian tanks hit the streets, he was well versed in all styles of gui­tar play­ing. It was his jazz vir­tu­os­ity, how­ever, that earned him his first break in the US.

He started off play­ing with Chico Hamilton. All the while his hori­zons ex­panded. He longed to break out into a freer form where ev­ery­thing from the Hun­gar­ian folk mu­sic of his child­hood to the pop mu­sic of the day could merge. He was savvy enough to know he would have to cre­ate his own plat­form if im­mor­tal­ity was to be his goal.

In 1966, he quit a gig at Im­pulse to form Skye Records with Cal Tjader and Gary McFar­land. It took an­other three years be­fore work be­gan on his mas­ter­piece in 1966.

It was wildly am­bi­tious in scope. A hint to the in­spi­ra­tion for the ma­te­rial is the ti­tle Dreams. There’s a de­light­ful hush to it even though the com­po­si­tions stray from the peace at its mel­low core. Sz­abo lets his in­cred­i­ble band ex­press them­selves in­di­vid­u­ally and only oc­ca­sion­ally weighs in with his dis­tinc­tive so­los.

Although there are many dis­parate el­e­ments, the al­bum was con­ceived as a whole and it begs re­peat lis­ten­ing, so ad­dic­tive are its charms. There’s an ethe­real at­mos­phere to most of it as if Sz­abo was tap­ping into the pre-cog­ni­tive feel­ing for mu­sic that can blos­som into such mag­i­cal think­ing later on.

It rises and falls like the wind in an el­e­men­tal fash­ion. The tran­scen­dent mo­ments are divine but it does not lack for power or groove. With its be­guil­ing cover it’s a mys­tery this record dis­ap­peared.

Trag­i­cally, it mir­rors Sz­abo’s sad demise who died aged 46 af­ter a long bat­tle with drug ad­dic­tion. Luck­ily for us, he cap­tured his rever­ies in time and be­queathed us an ev­er­last­ing gift of true grace and beauty.

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