Gabor Szabo: High Contrast (1971) LP

Gabor Szabo
High Contrast
Blue Thumb (BTS 28)

Rating: **** (Recommended)

Recorded March 1971, produced by Tommy LiPuma, engineered by Bruce Botnick.

For this instrumental outing, two great guitarists join forces, Szabo on various guitars, Bobby Womack on rhythm.  At first, the arrangements of the opening cut seemed overwhelming, and some of the material was too jazzy and stretched out for my tastes, but once I got to that last cut, “I Remember When,” I was hooked for life.  After that, I returned to the beginning of side two and completely dug the groove, Womack on rhythm guitar, Phillip Upchurch or Wolfgang Melz on bass, Falco and Carmelo Garcia on percussion, Jim Keltner on drums.  The side features three cuts by Womack, including a version of “If You Don’t Want My Love” from the score for Across 110th Street Economy wasn’t part of the vocabulary of 1971, and that works when you’ve got a band like this, a rhythm section from heaven, Szabo snaking his licks into the conversation, filling in the groove with improvization.  Just give a listen to the appropriately titled “Just A Little Communication” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

  After grooving with side two for a few days, I flipped her back over and dug that side too.  The set opens with “Breezin’,” a cut Womack wrote for Gzabo (later copped by George Benson for a hit in 1976). The rest of the side is filled with Szabo compositions, really getting into the groove as the side progresses, especially once they get deep into “Amazon” and on to “Fingers.”  Szabo dominates the writing on the first side and Womack provides the score for the flip side, but they both play a big part in the entire set, and the sides have a lot in common, both providing the contrast suggested by the title, getting into the groove and concluding with a reflective number.  While “I Remember When” might not be the best example of the deep groove this band dug out for this set, it still remains my favorite selection on the album.  The entire set is quite killer. 
— winch
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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