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Gabor Szabo

An innovative musician who combined the folk music of his native Hungary with his passion for jazz, Gabor Szabo began his study of the guitar at the age of 14. Following a single free lesson that came as a gift with his first instrument, he then began to teach himself to play by emulating the American jazz performers he heard on the radio. Some work with various bands in the Budapest area gradually developed, but in 1956 Szabo was forced to take refuge in Austria by the Communist takeover of Hungary.

Eventually settling in California, Szabo struggled to establish himself as a musician; for a time he worked as a janitor and used his earnings to attend the Berklee School of Music in Boston between 1958 and 1960. Reaching the end of his money, Szabo returned to California and again sought to break into the music field, working in property management to support his family. In 1961, the long-sought opportunity arrived in the form of an invitation to join The Chico Hamilton Quintet. After a somewhat tenuous beginning (Szabo was actually fired by Hamilton and then re-hired later in the year), the guitarist quickly began to establish himself with jazz audiences through his strikingly unique approach to his instrument. It was during this period that Szabo first performed with Lena Horne - an association that would later evolve into a collaborative record and an appearance on Horne's television special in 1970.

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