Thursday, November 13, 2014

Joël Dugrenot - 1989 - Mosaiques

Joël Dugrenot 

01. Water Light (6:04)
02. Half Fish Half Bird (6:19)
03. Dans Le Jardin (6:21)
04. Pastel Space (4:43)
05. Pegasus Dream (5:18)
06. Sunrise Call (4:45)

- Joël Dugrenot / bass guitar
- David Rose / Violin
- David Cross/ Violin
- Serge Aouzi /drums
- Pierre Moerlen /drums
- Fred Frith/ Guitar
- Francois Jeanneau/ Flute, synthe

There are hundreds of unknown albums from musicians that maybe are not that recognized, or at least not as recognized as they would like or deserve, albums that came out of nowhere to add a personal flavor to the progressive rock realm. In the 80s, Joel Dugrenot who used to be known for his work with Zao, released three jazz oriented albums, being this one (Mosaiques) his last effort in 1989.

This is a relatively short album with only six songs and a total time of 33 minutes. The album features prog icons such as Pierre Moerlen, David Cross and Fred Frith. It opens with "Water Light", which starts with a soft flute sound, that seconds later is joined by drums and bass. There are also melodic synth effects and a tranquil atmosphere that turns really sweet just before minute four where the violin takes the main role. There are some nice tempo changes which make the song more interesting.

"Half Fish Half Bird" starts with drums and plays with some guitar noises, while seconds later nice jazzy bass lines and the violin appear. The rhythm is very constant; the drums do not make any sudden change, while the violins appear stronger from time to time. "Dans le Jardin" has some kind of spacey mood created by synthesizer and those electronic violins. A couple of minutes later drums, bass and guitar appear and build up an structure, the atmosphere, though, has still that spacey feeling that also gives the impression of calm and ecstasy at the same time.

"Pastel Space" has a soft piano sound, while there is again a spacey mood. The violin creates a powerful sound without being really loud. In moments, the ambient reminds me to some Brian Eno passages. Not a bad song. "Pegasus Dream" starts with some kind of rain sound, but later a great bass along with drums and violins start creating a Mahavishnu-like mood with a faster (not that faster actually) time. There are some good moments in this song, also some percussion that sounds very peculiar.

And the album finishes with "Sunrise Call" which is a very nice piece. Piano and synth effects that later will be joined by an exquisite flute and the bass. After this first passage, violins appear and interplay with the flute, creating a really beautiful atmosphere. This might be my favorite song of the album, too bad is the last one.

I like this album, its music is pretty good, catchy in moments but fully enjoyable, however, I do not consider this as a masterpiece, neither a huge recommendation, but just a good album that could have been better, and which is recommendable to those who like to explore the unknown sides of some musicians.

Joël Dugrenot - 1982 - Boomerang

Joël Dugrenot 

01. Sweet and hard
02. Cycles
03. Like eagles
04. Blood pressure
05. Green
06. Rainy day
07. Just by love
08. It's game

Joel Dugrenot - bass, percussion, synths
David Rose - violin
Marc Bonnet Maury - violin
Manuel Villaroel - piano
Claude Olmos - guitar
Jean My Truong - drums
Marc Hazon - drums

French bassist, member of Clearlight, Delired cameleon family, Magma, Zao, Joël Dugrenot released two albums. His music can be described as a soft space jazzrock. "Mosaïques" is the first and the most inspired effort.

In response to a respective request, here's another album of fine European fusion. This one is by Joel Dugrenot, the bass player with Zao. Dugrenot's solo discography features two full-fledged LP albums named 'Boomerang' and 'Mosaiques', and a mysterious tape release called 'See' which I haven't heard. 'Boomerang' is a record of fine mellow aerial jazz-rock with slight touches of spaciness. Some similarities can be found between this effort and late releases by Zao, although Dugrenot's music is generally softer, dreamier and more reflective. 'Boomerang' also reminds me of solo works by David Rose - which is not surprising given the extent of his participation in the creation of this album. Overall, this is an excellent work which I would strongly recommend to lovers of progressive fusion and zeuhl.

Joe Beck - 1969 - Nature Boy

Joe Beck
Nature Boy

01. Nature Boy
02. Spoon's Caress
03. Let Me Go
04. Come Back: Visions Without You
05. Maybe
06. No More Blues (Rapid Disintegration of a Chamber Orchestra)
07. Goodbye L.A.
08. Please Believe Me
09. Ain't No Use in Talkin'

Bass – Don Payne (tracks: B2, B4)
Bass, Guitar, Organ, Vocals, Liner Notes – Joe Beck
Guitar, Vocals – Danny Whitten (tracks: A3)
Percussion – Donald MacDonald
Trumpet – Randy Brecker (tracks: A4)

Dedicated to Diane-the most beautiful woman I've ever known.

Out of all the great psychedelic guitar albums from the 1960s, Nature Boy by Joe Beck just might be that decade's best-kept secret. Much of this has to do with the fact that he's usually thought of as a jazz instrumentalist, which might scare off some people who focus on rock to the exclusion of all other varieties of music. Moreover, the similarity of his name to that of Jeff Beck, who was also establishing himself as a solo artist around the same time, probably didn't help matters when the album was released in 1969.

I first became aware of Joe Beck as a result of his participation on John Berberian's landmark Middle Eastern Rock LP from the same year. Anyone familiar with that album will readily attest to his extraordinary guitar playing throughout the proceedings and especially on "The Oud and the Fuzz." My curiosity in Beck was greatly piqued by his contributions, and after reading about his then-forthcoming debut record in the liner notes of Middle Eastern Rock, I knew it was something that I had to add to my collection. Prior to the release of Nature Boy, he had already earned a favorable reputation in jazz circles by playing with luminaries such as Chico Hamilton, Gary McFarland, and Charles Lloyd. Most notably, Beck was the first electric guitarist to play with the legendary Miles Davis, as heard on the groundbreaking fusion of "Circle in the Round" and "Water on the Pond," both recorded in 1967. Established as a musician's musician, Verve-Forecast was eager to see what he could do on his own.

Beck negotiated a $100,000 advance from the label, but squandered it all on partying during the month that the album was supposed to have been completed. Necessity being the mother of invention, he forged ahead almost single-handedly, recording nearly all the of vocal, guitar, bass, and piano parts on his own. (It should be noted that Beck's singing is actually quite capable, due in part to the multi-tracking utilized throughout the LP). Drummer Donald McDonald, who also played with Tim Hardin, was the only other full-time musician on the album, although trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Don Payne, and (surprise!) guitarist Danny Whitten from Crazy Horse make appearances as well. As one might expect, Nature Boy mixes a number of disparate ingredients, but does an excellent job of blending them all together. Overall, the sound of this album can best be described as psychedelic rock played with a jazz sensibility. Beck's serpentine leads are a thing of wonder, with his rapid-fire approach to soloing being an utterly distinctive trademark. McDonald's percussion work gives up just enough funk to keep things danceable, but also displays a nimbleness unique to jazz drummers.

Although the eden ahbez-penned title track has been covered by many artists ranging from Nat King Cole to Gandalf, you've never heard it like the wah-wah-heavy version that opens the album. The tender "Spoon's Caress" displays Beck's prowess on acoustic guitar quite nicely, while its lyrics deliver a chilling warning about the seductive power of heroin. In a bit of serendipity, that track is followed by notorious smack casualty Danny Whitten's "Let Me Go," which had originally appeared on the eponymous 1968 album by his proto-Crazy Horse band, the Rockets. This version is just as compelling and features Beck and Whitten effectively complementing each other on guitar and vocals. "Come Back: Visions Without You" achieves a certain melancholy grandeur, while "Maybe" allows the guitarist to show off his raga chops in rather convincing fashion. Sporting the title "No More Blues (Rapid Disintegration of a Chamber Orchestra)," the instrumental track that kicks off side two sounds just as you would imagine, with a lush introduction followed by Beck and Whitten's fierce dueling guitars. In edited form, the appealing "Goodbye L.A." could have perhaps been a hit single, although it would have required paring down the mind-blowing fretwork. "Please Believe Me" is a piece akin to "Spoon's Caress," albeit with considerably less menacing lyrics, and "Ain't No Use in Talkin'" provides Beck with an opportunity to conclude things with yet another guitar tour de force.

Id - 1977 - Where Are We Going

Where Are We Going 

01. Sunrise [A New Day] (4:16)
02. Where Are We Going [Part One] (16:02)
03. Where Are We Going [Part Two] (13:44)
04. Solar Wind (9:46)

- David Oickle / mellotron, vocals
- Gary Oickle / guitar
- Kevin Orsie / bass
- James Albert / guitar
- Bob Halsall / keyboards
- Ralph Jenkins / drums

Recorded at Dimensional Sound Studios (PPX Enterprise) West 54th Street, New York, N.Y., October 1975.

I keep finding obscure American prog acts that just blow me away. Cathedral's Stained Glass Stories was my first exposure, back in 1994, via a blank cassette copy (I since acquired the 1989 LP reissue with a different cover, and the CD reissue, which features the original artwork, although not the original typefont, I don't have the original Delta label LP, for rather obvious reasons). Most obscure American prog I've acquired had been on major labels, or labels with nationwide distribution, like Ethos, Fireballet, and Happy the Man, so original LPs of those do turn up (I actually saw the debut of Happy the Man at a St. Vincent de Paul once!). I had been lucky to acquire original small label LP pressings of Babylon and the even more obscure Albatross, but then, although those are rare, aren't as obscenely rare as Cathedral, or the even more obscure Earthrise.

ID, not exactly sure where they hail from, I've heard Texas, New York, and even Maryland, but they recorded their only album Where Are We Going late in 1975, but was not released until 1977, which was on the small Aura label. I bet you the band was looking for major labels to release it but to no avail, so it got released on a small label (a similar fate happened to Yezda Urfa with Boris, but that album never made it past the demo pressing stage, and an actual release didn't happen until decades later with the Syn-Phonic CD reissue). What you get here is jam-oriented guitar and Mellotron-oriented prog, with some space rock tendencies. Some might feel this is a bit "guitar overkill", but I don't have that problem here, and I find the music quite engaging. They can really rock out, but also mellow out when need to. I was having a hard time thinking what they remind me of, they remind me a tad of Finch, but without the Focus influence (the guitarist doesn't play like Joop van Nimwegen, or Jan Akkerman, for that matter), and even more guitar-oriented.

Obscurities are truly a minefield out there. Many are obscure because they deserve to be obscure, they're not great, some of them are awful, but this one is simply amazing. Truly recommended for those who want great guitar-oriented jam prog, with nice use of Mellotron to boot!

Another album that the Acid Archives thoroughly belittles, for lack of complexity. I find this to be absolutely killer. Recorded in NYC. in Oct, 1975, it's somewhat typical, though fairly non-commercial sounding, prog rock for it's vintage, but with some real psychedelic hard rock overtones. For the experienced, this LP is one excellent trip! Grades - 1 A (the title track), 1 A-, and 1 B. Incidentally, the AA also makes mention of a counterfeit bootleg of this now rare album. Supposedly, the vinyl trail-off on that one has relatively few, if any, markings, while the original has many. The band are reported to have been from Baltimore, MD, and the album was released on Aura Records.

Id is the album that Terry Brooks and Strange *should have* released. For those of you that have endured "Raw Power", then you know what an exhausting fuzz guitar overload that album is. Id is no different really on that point, but the primary separator is the keyboard work which is all in technicolor mellotron! There's even some decent melodies, especially on the first side. Lyrically it's 70s cornball hippy dipster the-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket kind of album. There's some narration and phased semi-singing that's so bad it's bad, thus we love it anyway. Honestly, I like this album quite a bit. If you can handle non stop guitar soloing, then you might like it too! And truthfully there wasn't a lot of this kind of stuff on the market in the 1970s.

Heliocentric - 1979 - Heliocentric


01. Afferent Connection
02. Leaf
03. Arrow
04. Traditional Song For A Loved One
05. Artist's Spoken Autograph
06. Goliath
07. Cloud Mountain
08. "Y"?
09. Town Of Dog
10. Pietko Klapejko
11. Artist's Spoken Autograph

    Bass – John Leftwich
    Drums – Norm Scutti]
    Horns – Albert Von Seggern
    Keyboards – Jeff Pressing

I really couldn't resist buying this without knowing anything about the contents when I saw the highly attractive surrealistic cover with the metronome oddly flat on the table and thus nonfunctionable, the window showing a reflection of the metronome in front of a sandy path outside and self-referential other window, the blind handle echoing the pendulum, etc.  The artist here is Norm Scutti, who also plays drums.  He is rounded out by Al von Seggern on horns, Jeff Pressing on keyboards, and John Leftwich on bass.  The whole was recorded in March 1979 in San Diego, California, thus, 35 years ago...

The rear features the following little blurb worth reading:

"This album presents nine original compositions with each piece exploring a different musical territory.  The use of untraditional harmonic changes and rhythmic concepts evident in this music evolved from the group's inception.  We began as a group whose premise was aleatory or spontaneous music.  From this grew a sensitivity to dynamic interplay which has resulted in a unique group sound.  This sound together with the writing creates a raw spontaneity in the recording.  With a minimum of overdubbing we feel the loose gut-level funky side of small group playing shines through.  What follows is a brief description of the compositions..."
--Norm Scutti and Al von Seggern

For example, the first track Afferent Connection is described as "contemporary latin-folk in 6/16 meter with solos alternating between all members of the group..."

Ridiculously, the drummer has two spoken tracks at the ends of each side, in which he explains the group, thankfully only for a few seconds.  I don't think I've seen such a curious exposition before on a jazz record and it seems to me quite unnecessary.

Note that the first side is entirely composed by keyboardist Jeff Pressing, while on side 2 there is more involvement from the others.  An entirely improvised track is credited to the whole band ("Town of Dog").

I don't think the spontaneous aspect is very much to the fore here (thankfully I might add, with the exception of "Town of Dog"), rather, the laidback acoustic jazz sound most reminds me of Listen featuring Mel Martin which I ripped some time back, minus those annoying steel drums of course.  Despite the promise of "untrad. harmonic changes and concepts" (i.e. progressive composition) the amount of unusualness evident here is slightly below our stratospheric standards at this late stage in the game where like the jaded and debauched Romans in Petronius' Satyricon, we are always seeking some new unheard chord progression, dissonant interval or rifflike angular melody to punch our jugulars and entertain our palmares-weary receptive auditory neurons and higher cortices...

The spoken prose poem or very short story that accompanies "Town of Dog" is well worth listening to for its amusing plot and subversively surreal changes and original phraseology (but not the improvised music).  I will paraphrase the majority of it but not quote it verbatim, not having the time for it:

"In the Town of Dog there lived six cats.  Two of them, Hibble and Thnork, were employed as wine-sniffers, by the local vineyards.  This, many said, was what was responsible for their chronic inebriation, matted fur, and good-hearted sense of humour.  Though there were those who felt their sense of practical jokery bordered on the macabre.  Let me tell you about one of their exploits.

Douglas, who went to trade school, studying to be a plumber, now enters the story inasmuch as his brother, Frank, tripped over Hibble and Thnork as they were making an important grain purchase for their hogfarm.  What was worse, he was carrying his bombastophone, on which he was a performer of international repute.  Unfortunately the instrument fell, and was cracked beyond repair.  Needless to say, Frank had few kind words for our friends, Hibble and Thnork.  Their escape was via one of the many cubbyholes, cut into the sides of the store and a very narrow one, it was indeed.  In fact, Hibble's tail became entangled by some wiring which had become stuck to the outside of the opening...."

And this is how the story ends.  Really love it.

Gold - 1980 - No Class What So Ever

No Class What So Ever

01. While You Were Out
02. Understanding
03. Sunshower
04. Night Ride
05. New York, New York
06. Milkyway
07. Light Speed
08. Can't Win 'em All
09. Decisions

- Bob Wamnes / guitar
- Ed Mallett / drums, wind chimes
- Tom McCance / bass
- Jeff Powers / guitar

Special Thanks to Marcia Latta of Criteria Studios and Dick Smith of Alpha Records.
This album was a first take live recording with no over-dubbing.

Gold are a southern Florida band and I found this album to be a very appealing piece of instrumental music. I love the guitar work, both in the psychedelic tone, and with his melodic style. No shredding here - this is the emotional style that Santana or even Frank Marino (think 'Poppy') can get when they focus on their instrumental side. The compositions are tight, and they pack a lot of ideas within relatively short time frames. It's sophisticated but not complicated. And while it ostensibly comes from a jazz fusion angle, I'd say it's more in the instrumental progressive rock camp. There is no doubt that this album will improve with multiple listens, as it possesses an uncommon depth. This one really came out of nowhere, and I don't think it's on the collector radar yet.

A chromatic downgoing arpeggiated riff tears the still air into shreds on "Light Speed" leading into the stellar clusters of the "milkyway" on the second track of side a ... absolutely a one-two punch worth the price of admission to this incredible ultra-unknown secret and long-lost set of music from Miami, Fla.

There are considerable similarities to the "Mr. Euphoria" record I posted some time ago, and if you follow this blog you'll recall Isabelbc posted their first record here ("Night Ride") about a year ago.  So I'll dedicate this newly-ripped version of the second record to Isabel, wherever she may be.  Oddly enough the guys reverted to an all-instrumental album here but they brought all the power in the book to play here.  On the back, the following note:  "This album was a first take live recording with no over-dubbing."  Pretty cool!

The album was written by the lead guitarist whose name is Bob Wamnes  ("the Wam" as he is called on the back cover) perfect in his mustachio and tuxedo.  His band is rounded out with Ed Mallett on drums and wind chimes, Tom McCance on bass and Jeff Powers on lead guitar as well.  I'm guessing these guys were high school pals who started a band, I wonder where they are now?  I sure would love to hear from the brilliant Bob Wamnes, truly a lost artistic genius in the US prog sphere as I think Tom would agree.  Just listen again to those big fat huge guitar chords on Light Speed and the way drummer Ed machetes his way through the jungle of power cables to the end to clear the way for the next track.

Truly a lost treasure of the late American guitar-based progressive style.  That late, great, style.

Gold - 1979 - Night Ride

Night Ride 

01. Boogie
02. Rock And Roll
03. Everlasting End
04. Love City
05. Night Ride
06. Ain't Nobody
07. Hard Lovin' Woman
08. You (Know My Secrets
09. New York, New York
10. Til You Go

- Bob Wamnes / guitar
- Ed Mallett / drums, wind chimes
- Tom McCance / bass
- Jeff Powers / guitar

GOLD was an obscure four member band from Florida led by guitarist Bob WAMNES. Not much is known about them and only two records remain; 'Night Ride' from 1979 is a fun but just an average classic rock record while a year later the band would create a jazzy instrumental prog rock album. Recommended to all, 'No Class What So Ever' from 1980 is a hidden gem that successfuly combines harsher tones of guitar based prog with mellower jazz sound.

Killer little known private press with all original songs written by lead singer/guitarist Bob Wamnes. Great driving hard rock/blues rock/classic rock with some good fuzz guitar and rough vocals thoughout. Sort of a garage/bar band feel. Recorded in Florida. Sounds more early to mid 70's. Label - Sun Song 7783 - Florida private press rock LP. Interesting stuff, ranges from straight-up hardrock to a couple laid-back numbers to the prog / jazzrock style "New York, New York". Somewhat lo-fi recording (done on a Teac 3340S, according to the back cover)

Gabor Szabo - 1978 - Belsta River

Gabor Szabo 
Belsta River

01. 24 Carat
02. Django
03. First Tune In The Morning
04. Stormy

Recorded at Europa Film Studio, Stockholm (Sweden) on January 6 & 7, 1978

Gabor Szabo, Janne Schaffer (g)
Wlodek Gulgowski (p,el-p,synth)
Pekka Pohjola (b)
Malando Gassama (cga,per)
Peter Sundell (d)

For Szabo's second Swedish recording, only guitarist Janne Schaffer returned. Producer Lars Samuelson, a talent scout of eclectic tastes, cast the rest of the band with a variety of European musicians including Pekka Pohjola. Named for the Ballstaan River crossing through Sundbyberg, a suburb north of Stockholm where the recording was made (and pictured on the cover), BELSTA RIVER is an enjoyable, often engaging session with a pleasant back-to-basics feel.

Significantly, BELSTA RIVER does not wear the dated shackles of so much "jazz" made in 1978. While rife with the electronic instrumentation and (somewhat) danceable beats of its predecessor (FACES) and the final album which follows (FEMME FATALE), there is an abundant sense of invention and interplay here lacking in Szabo's American recordings at the time. The long tunes allow for plenty of blowing and a refreshing opportunity for expression. The talent involved contributes directly to the musicality of the proceedings here rather than to the string and vocal contrivances that falsely decorate the other albums. And Samuelson's production is crystal clear -- a substantial sonic achievement over the more satisfying SMALL WORLD. It is perhaps one of the cleanest ever provided to Szabo.

"24 Carat" starts as little more than a jam on a riff (partially borrowed from Tony Dumas's "It Happens"), ignited by the bassist and chockful of vamps familiar to the guitarist. But it's worth noting how much Szabo seems to feel at home here; craftily weaving a fabric of moods into a genuine musical frenzy. Gulgowski and Pohjola, spellbound and spellbinding, solo impressively.

Likewise, "First Tune In The Morning" adds a twist of dark funk (courtesy of Pohjola) to the mysterious Eastern influence of the earlier "Lady Gabor." It is a mesmerizing concoction wherein Szabo, Schaffer and Gulgowski's keyboards stir a lavish, infectious brew.

"Stormy," presumably dated by 1978, gets a new reading here by Szabo (his first is on GABOR SZABO 1969) but pleasingly yields one of his finer, beautifully constructed song-like solos. Schaffer's rockish solo follows; as much in its brief space a showpiece as a tribute to the leader who's style he'd clearly assimilated.

Perhaps the most fascinating turn of all is the unusual guitar/bass dirge of "Django." Jarring as much as an acid-trip elegy, it's Szabo's first and only reference to Django Reinhardt, the subject of John Lewis's famous ode. After several listens, "Django" impresses most in the way Gabor Szabo can make a hollowed-out body of wood and strings positively sing. A devilishly seductive piece.

Szabo is clearly at ease here; comfortable with his surroundings and seemingly satisfied with his support, even as he spins himself into worlds of his own. As a result, his playing is spirited, and, though too often reliant on pet licks, quite enjoyable. Gulgowski and Pohjola are outstanding additions and contribute notably here through a high level of musicianship and an apparent ability to easily slip into Szabo's universe.

Gabor Szabo - 1972 - Small World

Gabor Szabo
Small World 

01. People
02. My Kind Of People
03. Lilac-Glen
04. Mizrab
05. Impression Of My Country
06. Foothill Patrol
07. Another Dream
08. Concerto de Aranjuez

Janne Schaffer - Guitar on 4, 6, 7
Berndt Egerbladh - El-Piano on 4, 6, 7
Stefan Brolund - El-Bass on 4, 6, 7
Sture Nordin - Bass on 1, 2, 3
Nils-Erik Slörner - Drums on 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7

Stockholm, Sweden: August 12-13, 1972

Gabor Szabo was one of the most original guitarists to emerge in the 1960s; mixing his Hungarian folk music heritage with a deep love of jazz and crafting a distinctive, largely self-taught sound.

Inspired by a Roy Rogers cowboy movie, Szabo began playing guitar when he was 14 and often played in dinner clubs and covert jam sessions while still living in Budapest. He escaped from his country at age 20 on the eve of the anti-Communist uprising and eventually made his way to America, settling with his family in California.

He attended Berklee College (1958-60) and in 1961 joined Chico Hamilton’s innovative quintet featuring Charles Lloyd. Urged by Hamilton, Szabo crafted a most distinctive sound; agile on intricate, nearly-free runs as he was able to sound inspired during melodic passages.

Szabo left the Hamilton group in 1965 to leave his mark on the pop-jazz of the Gary McFarland quintet and the energy music of Charles Lloyd’s fiery and underrated quartet featuring Ron Carter and Tony Williams.

Szabo initiated a solo career in 1966, recording the exceptional album, SPELLBINDER, which yielded many inspired moments and "Gypsy Queen," the song the rock group, Santana, turned into a huge hit in 1970.

Szabo formed an innovative quintet (1967-69) featuring the brilliant, classically-trained guitarist Jimmy Stewart and recorded many notable albums during the late 1960s.

The emergence of rock music (especially George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix) found Szabo successfully experimenting with feedback and less successfully (but innovative at the time) with more commercially-oriented forms of jazz.

During the 1970s, Szabo regularly performed along the West Coast; hypnotizing audiences with his enchanting, spellbinding style. But from 1970, he was locked into a commercial groove – even though records like MIZRAB occasionally revealed the success of his jazz, pop, Gypsy, Indian and Asian fusions.

Szabo had revisited his homeland several times during the 1970s, finding opportunities to perform brilliantly with native talents. He was hospitalized during his final visit and died in 1982 – just short of his 46th birthday and five years after his final American album was released.

An unusual and fascinating entry in Gabor Szabo's discography, SMALL WORLD is the first of two records produced in Sweden for Lars Samuelson's Four Leaf Clover Records. Aside from the guitarist's debut Hungarian recordings in 1956, the Stockholm sessions of 1972 and 1978 mark the only occasions Szabo recorded outside of the United States. SMALL WORLD, like BELSTA RIVER and FEMME FATALE, wasn't even released in the United States. But it is a gem of Szabo's fine musicianship and one of the guitarist's more notable achievements.

SMALL WORLD is the result of Szabo's long relationship with Peter Totth [formerly Menyus Totth and also known as Peter Toth]. Already conducting the radio orchestra in Hungary by 1956, Totth was also playing piano in a Hungarian trio including Gabor Szabo and bassist Louis [Lajos] Kabók before he escaped the Communist insurgence later that year. Totth went onto Sweden, where he stayed for many years. Szabo, however, went onto the United States and soon thereafter formed a group in California called the Three Strings (also featuring Kabók). Szabo, who so often formed deep, long-lasting friendships, stayed in touch with Totth. Upon a 1972 visit to Sweden the two conspired to make SMALL WORLD together.

"Peter asked me if I was interested in producing a record with Gabor Szabo," says Lars Samuelson. "And I said yes. I picked the best Swedish musicians who could give Gabor inspiration. Gabor liked them very much; especially Janne Schaffer." Unlike Szabo's American producers, often designing sessions around commercial possibilities, Samuelson genuinely seemed interested in providing a beneficial environment for Szabo. Rock and fusion guitarist Schaffer was, however, chosen for commercial appeal. His own recent debut on Four Leaf Clover had gone gold and he had name recognition by that time in Sweden. But the pairing works -- though Schaffer rarely is afforded the opportunity to solo at length or interact with the leader the way Jimmy Stewart so often did. On the other hand, Schaffer is game to participate and modifies his rockish sound with a gypsy feel quite suitable for accompanying Szabo.

One imagines SMALL WORLD to be exactly the kind of album Szabo liked making. His playing occupies much of the spotlight. The album is nicely recorded; capturing the guitarist in lucid, often inventive form. The music has the enchanting fervor he was often capable of stirring in performance. His associates cushion the guitarist with minimal support and occasionally he allows for inspired interaction with the other guitarist and keyboard player. (Interestingly, the bass player remembers it as just "a regular studio recording" -- but found himself intrigued by Szabo's sound.) There are no distracting string or vocal sections, no bows to popular culture and Szabo's inclusion of Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez even lends an air of timelessness lacking in so many of Szabo's efforts at the time. One unfortunate drawback, though, is the guitarist seems to employ an effect in places (noticeably in "People") which gives his deep, lovely tone a sour, dated twang.

"People," a piece he'd been perfecting in performance since the mid-60s, starts things off with Szabo's jangled minor-key solo, exploring the mysterious consequences of the song, before continuing into the well-known theme. One cannot help note how expertly he excels at bypassing the song's corny sentimentality to find a genuinely warm emotion. From here, he returns the listener into a darker aspect of the tune; simply a rock riff he used for jamming (here given the title "My Kind of People") and perhaps, an expression of the inherent duality of human nature. "People/My Kind of People" is, unlike so many of the pop covers and self-penned riffs Szabo had recorded for so long, a fully developed, almost theatrical performance (appropriate, as it's taken from the 1964 Broadway hit FUNNY GIRL). It is an exciting entrance that leads into a feature for the pure guitar artistry of Szabo's playing in "Lilac-Glen." The interaction of formality with the openness Szabo needed is probably the result of Totth's co-authorship. There is a classic, waltz-like feel to "Lilac-Glen" that, like much in the best of jazz, is not bound by chordal vamps. Szabo relishes the minimal background -- and the opportunity to interact with his own playing. Although Alicia Solari, Szabo's wife at the time, is credited as lyricist here, no lyrics are sung during the performance. A poem by Solari bearing the title "Lilac-Glen," is printed in English on the sleeve.

The record continues with the welcome return of "Mizrab," certainly one of the guitarist's very best "compositions" and unaccountably never discovered by others as "Gypsy Queen" was. Perhaps the strong Middle-Eastern influence mixed with the drone of an Indian raga scared others off. But the simple harmonics of the theme mixed with the lovely way Gabor expresses it are so unique to the guitarist that it may be best kept as Szabo's secret. This performance isn't as powerful as the one he'd record with Bob James for Creed Taylor later in the year. Szabo allows a rock rhythm to interrupt the hypnotic drone of the tune; and while the musicianship is nice, it is not nearly as engaging as Szabo showed it could be.

"Impression of My Country/Foothill Patrol" is a flight of moods and reactions to an ever-eruptive landscape. Much like a motion picture soundtrack, Szabo and company effectively paint a horizon peopled with beauty and threatened by darkness, then overpower it with 4/4 military cadenzas, slashing lines and unpredictable folly before returning to expressive moments to suggest the survival of the human spirit despite the chaos which torments it. (Although there is a danger reading this deeply into merely politically suggestive music -- Szabo's performance of "Guantanamera" in 1967 is another -- the suggestion gains significance upon studied listening). Here, after a beautiful solo introduction (here titled "Impression of My Country" and used, in part, again to kick off 1973's "Rambler"), the guitarist engages with Schaffer, then introduces the bassist in the conversation and finally when the rhythm section joins in, Egerbladh delivers a Herbie Hancock-like electric piano solo that spurs an interactive synthesis with the entire band. Though this is far from the kind of avant garde music of Sonny Sharrock or Derek Bailey (or even Charles Ellerbee or Bern Nix), it is probably as "free" as Szabo would ever get. This profound and successful piece -- probably no more than a scrapbook of Szabo riffs -- reminds one, oddly enough, of Pink Floyd's THE WALL in what it strives to achieve and the impressions it leaves. Ultimately, these performances form the centerpiece and most memorable part of SMALL WORLD.

Upon coming to a second waltz penned by Peter Totth, it is interesting to note that Szabo's friend does not participate as a musician on this recording. "Another Dream" is a trio performance that reminds one how infrequently Szabo was heard in a guitar/bass/drums format and how well he thrives in a strict jazz context. Szabo hadn't been recorded this effectively as a jazz soloist since SPELLBINDER in 1966 and during his years following Charles Lloyd's departure as a Chico Hamilton associate.

Finally, the inclusion of Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra is an unusual turn for Szabo; the unschooled genius who could play the classics but seemed content to avoid them. Immortalized in 1960 by Gil Evans's brilliant arrangement for Miles Davis in SKETCHES OF SPAIN (Columbia CK 40578 [CD]), Rodrigo's impressionist composition has enjoyed great popularity in jazz contexts and, ultimately seems ideal for such a natural gypsy as Gabor Szabo. The concierto was probably brought to the session by Szabo himself following a recent meeting with Bohlin, a famous Swedish guitar maker. Bohlin made a 12-string acoustic guitar especially for Szabo which the guitarist liked so much, he used it to record the brief version of Concerto de Aranjuez heard here [for purposes of review, 'concerto' is spelled as it appears on the sleeve of Four Leaf Clover (Swd) EFG7230]. Beginning "in the middle" as Evans's arrangement does, Szabo performs the Adagio in a haunting and lovely two-guitar conversation with himself. Szabo is exceptionally well-suited to the nomadic and romantic flamenco style. Miles Davis, himself a romantic haunted by Rodrigo's beautiful work, said of the concierto: "(t)hat melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets." Szabo's natural gypsy talents and uncanny dexterity imbue the song's Spanish outline with the sensitivity required of the performance. He even flares his dramatic muscle (evident to many of his concertgoers) when he concludes the performance on an unresolved note. As the listener awaits more, the needle quietly wends its way toward the paper label at the record's center; the gypsy having told his story.

SMALL WORLD was issued in its entirety on CD in early 2001 as part of the GABOR SZABO IN STOCKHOLM compilation.