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Hermann Szobel - Szobel CD (album) cover


Hermann Szobel



4.50 | 12 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
5 stars For me this is one of the most incredible stories I've ever heard when it comes to the world of music and in particular Jazz/ Fusion. The Laser's Edge re-issued this one and in my opinion it's well worth quoting a lot of the liner notes provided. Hermann Szobel flew to New York City from his home in Vienna, Austria by himself as a sixteen year old. Walking into "The Hit Factory" he stated in broken English "My name is Hermann Szobel and I'm the greatest pianist you've ever heard." Everyone who was there was stunned by this brash statement and among those there were Roberta Flack and bassist Anthony Jackson. Of course they asked him to sit down at the piano and play. "Well, the stunned silence of disbelief before the performance turned to sheer amazement when everyone heard the music that was pouring forth from him."

His mission was to create complex instrumental music that no one had heard before, and to become a star doing it. Hermann was a big fan of WEATHER REPORT, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and FRANK ZAPPA but wanted to infuse that style with a European modernist sound, particularly that of Martial Solal, the brilliant French pianist whom he adored. They were able to get some incredibly talented people on board to play with him because after hearing some of his music they just wanted to be a part of this project. His music was so challenging, so technical and emotional. Russian Vadim Vyadro played sax and clarinet, Dave Samuels played vibes, marimba and percussion, Bob Goldman on drums and Michael Visceglia on bass. Clive Davis, President of Arista Records signed Hermann to his label and the band went to work practicing together, then some gigs were set up in clubs around New York City.

Legendary Producer Eddie Kramer who had worked with Hendrix was brought in to jump-start the process and the album was recorded at the "Record Plant" studios in 1975. One important fact I haven't mentioned yet is that his uncle was Bill Graham that legendary promoter who happened to be his mom's brother. Obviously that opened some doors as well. And how about that album cover with Hermann on it and that majestic building "The Flatiron Building" which was built in 1902. The building and the music are both timeless and marvels to see and hear.

Unfortunately Hermann was very demanding and brash and got into it with Clive and also his fellow musicians. He got impatient with playing clubs and after Clive gave him some career advise about being patient Hermann stood up and slammed his hand on Davis' desk and said "I will not! I want to open for the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA at Carnegie Hall! Nothing else will do. I will not play small clubs anymore." The bass player packed up and left after an altercation with Szobel and that was the last professional day for Hermann as Arista pulled the plug on the project and Szobel went back to Europe. As far as we know he quit music completely and lived off of an allowance his mom would send to him frequently until even she lost track of where he was. It is still unknown to this day where he is. What a story! What an album!

"Mr. Softee" opens with sparse piano melodies before a dark atmosphere arrives before a minute as the sax joins the piano. Suddenly outbursts of vibes start to come and go contrasted with the piano before drums and full sound arrive 2 minutes in. Love the drum work here as sax, piano and bass help out. The tempo continues to shift and check out the Funk before 4 1/2 minutes. The sax is ripping it up then more outbursts of vibes which brings Zappa to mind each time on this song.

"The Szuite" is the longest track at 12 1/2 minutes. And oh man check out the piano in the intro! Oh my! Drums and sax help out then we get a calm as the bass takes over with plenty of atmosphere. The sax kicks in after 1 1/2 minutes with drums then piano as it builds. Love the dissonant sax here. Another calm before 3 1/2 minutes then the sax returns after 4 minutes before it becomes chaotic with uptempo piano and drum work. Vibes follow then it kicks in hard. We get a calm with discordant piano after 5 minutes then the tempo picks up 7 minutes in as the drums and piano lead the way. Sax follows. How good is this! So impressive as they rip it up until another calm arrives after 8 1/2 minutes with piano only then the clarinet and bass join in. Love the section 9 1/2 minutes in as the drums arrive. A change before 11 minutes as it becomes uptempo and complex with sounds flying all over the place. So it seems. Piano to the fore at 12 minutes then it starts to wind down to the end.

"Between 7 & 11" opens with bass and it sounds amazing as drums and piano join in. This is jazzy and uptempo. What a display of talent right here. It settles down after a minute. It's piano only after 3 minutes but drums and bass kick in quickly as it becomes uptempo again. Sax will eventually join in as well. Man such a complex and impressive track.

"Transcendental Floss" opens with piano and drums as the sax joins in. Again this is uptempo and complex. A calm with sparse piano after 2 minutes. Relaxed sax joins in as well then drums and bass before 3 minutes. So good! I could listen to this on a loop. It will settle with piano after 5 1/2 minutes as the drums, sax and bass return quickly once again.

"New York City, 6 AM" is my favourite song on here. It opens with atmosphere and vibes in this experimental intro where sounds echo. A solo bass line arrives before 1 1/2 minutes and is repeated as the piano joins in along with clashing cymbals. I like how this is building. Reminds me of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA here. Clarinet after 4 minutes and it sounds amazing when it starts to cry out over the bass, drums and piano.

What else can I say but track this down! Yes it's complex but it's a warm complexity. I was surprised to see this under Avant here as for me this is Jazz/ Fusion 101, but to be fair while I was looking around at the many opinions I see that many mention Avant/ Jazz so what do I know. Haha.

Mellotron Storm | 5/5 |


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