Gábor Szabó was born in Budapest, Hungary, on March 8, 1936. Largely self-taught, Szabó blended jazz, pop-rock, and his native Hungarian folk music into a unique sound distinctively his own.
He studied guitar at the Berklee School of Music in Boston after fleeing his homeland in 1956. After performing at the Newport Jazz Festival in ’58, Szabó played with the Chico Hamilton Quintet for four years, from 1961-’65. He played with Gary McFarland on the Skye label, which they formed with Cal Tjader, and on which he would record an album with Lena Horne. Other Szabó collaborations included Charles Lloyd’s quartet (alongside Ron Carter and Tony Williams), Bobby Womack, Jimmy Stewart, and Paul Desmond. Santana scored a massive hit in 1970 with “Gypsy Queen,” a song originally composed by Szabó. George Benson also scored a big hit with a tune Szabó had recorded first, “Breezin’,” from Szabó’s 1971 Blue Thumb album High Contrast with Bobby Womack, who penned the song. Szabó passed away in 1982, at age forty-five. Watch the video below to see him perform “Breezin’” with his band.