Szabó Gábor István (8 March 1936 – 26 February 1982), better known as Gábor Szabó, was a Hungarian jazz guitarist, famous for mixing jazz, pop-rock and his native Hungarian music.[1]



Szabó was born in Budapest and began playing guitar at the age of 14, inspired by jazz music on the Voice of America broadcasts.[1] He escaped Hungary and moved to the United States in 1956, a year of attempted revolt against Soviet-dominated Communist rule, and attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston.[1] In 1958, he was invited to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival. Szabó performed with the Chico Hamilton quintet from 1961 to 1965, and beginning in 1966 he recorded a well-received span of albums under his own name on the Impulse! label.

In the late 1960s he co-founded the short-lived Skye record label along with Cal Tjader and Gary McFarland.[1] On the Skye label, Szabo recorded his album with Lena Horne in October and November 1969. Szabo had been part of Horne's backup band when she performed at The Nugget in Nevada in November 1966 and when she performed (with Harry Belafonte) at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in September 1969.

His playing incorporated elements of folk music from his native Hungary and rock music's use of feedback. His composition "Gypsy Queen" became a hit for Santana in 1970 (see Black Magic Woman). Szabo's album for Impulse!, Wind, Sky And Diamonds, features "The California Dreamers", a vocal-ensemble consisting of Ron Hicklin, Al Capps, Loren Farber, John Bahler, Tom Bahler, Ian Freebairn-Smith, Sally Stevens, Sue Allen and Jackie Ward.[1] During his solo career, he performed with artists such as Ron Carter, Paul Desmond, Lena Horne and Bobby Womack.

Gabor felt he was never fully accepted as a jazz artist in the US. During a 1977 engagement at the Catamaran Hotel in San Diego, he complained to the audience about George Benson's success with "Breezin'" (composer, Bobby Womack). He indicated that he had recorded that song before Benson and that Benson had basically stolen the arrangement from him. His version can be heard on the High Contrast album with Bobby Womack.[2]

He died in Budapest in 1982 from liver and kidney disease while on a visit to his homeland,[1] partly to find treatment for the drug habit he had been battling for years.[3]


As leaderEdit

As sidemanEdit

With Steve Allen

With Paul Desmond

With Coke Escovedo

With Chico Hamilton

With Charles Lloyd

With Gary McFarland

  • The In Sound (Verve, 1966)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 allmusic Biography
  2. available with audio samples at Live clips of performances of Breezin' by Szabó and by Benson may be found on YouTube.
  3. People in the News AP 31/1/1981

External linksEdit


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