Despite being one of Carlos Santana’s favourite guitarists, Gabor Szabo is far from being a player everyone has heard of. Born in Hungary in 1936, Szabo emigrated to the states aged twenty, and began to hone a style which incorporated something of the spirit of his homeland. In 1971 he made an album called High Contrast with Bobby Womack. On paper it sounds like an unlikely pairing, a folksy Hungarian jazz guitarist and a well known soul singer. In fact much of the album comes off very nicely. There are no vocals (Womack was also an excellent R&B guitarist), just seven groove based tunes for Szabo to stretch out on. Perhaps the most appealing track on the record is If You Don’t Want My Love, a tune which is best known as the vocal version Womack recorded. Szabo floats above a band which knows how to create a groove, and how to develop it. I’ve included a transcription of the first part of his solo. Szabo mostly sticks to E dorian, but there are occasional hints at the diminished scale and a Hungarian sounding C sharp – Bb – A resolution. The fast scale passage near the end is impossible to notate precisely.
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