Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Gabor Szabo

Having lived under both Communism and Scientology Gabor Szabo (3/8/36-2/26/82) truly understood the nature of totalitarianism. Just kidding, please don’t sue me.

Szabo discovered jazz in his native Hungary through Willis Conover’s V.O.A. program. He was soon playing in local clubs on a crudely constructed guitar. It was the only possession Szabo brought with him when forced to exit Hungary during the 1956 revolution.

Eventually Szabo made his way to America, and found his initial fame with Chico Hamilton’s distinctive quintet. Szabo’s music fused jazz with traditional Indian and Gypsy music, but also took inspiration from contemporary pop tunes. An entrepreneur as well as an artist, Szabo joined with musicians Gary McFarland and Cal Tjader to form Skye Records, as a vehicle for their pop-jazz experiments.

In the late 1970’s Szabo sought treatment for his heroin addiction at a Scientology-affiliated drug treatment center, and became deeply involved in the religion. In 1980, he broke from the Church, unsuccessfully filing suit for alleged financial mismanagement.

In 1981 Szabo moved back to Hungary in effort to kick the habit, but his body would soon give out. Szabo came full circle, leaving behind an extremely eclectic discography, which you can investigate courtesy of Doug Payne.