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Hermann Szobel


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Hermann Szobel Szobel album cover
4.64 | 17 ratings | 3 reviews | 59% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Mr. Softee (6:45)
2. The Szuite (12:30)
3. Between 7 & 11 (5:08)
4. Transcendental Floss (6:08)
5. New York City, 6 AM (6:45)

Total Time 37:16

Line-up / Musicians

- Hermann Szobel / piano
- Michael Visceglia / bass
- Bob Goldman / drums
- Dave Samuels / percussion, marimba, vibraphone
- Vadim Vyadro / tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute

Releases information

LP Arista Records AL4058 (1976)
CD The Laser's Edge LE1064 (2012)

Thanks to damoxt7942 for the addition
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$14.99 (used)

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HERMANN SZOBEL Szobel ratings distribution

(17 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(59%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (6%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

HERMANN SZOBEL Szobel reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars Hermann would be an explosive multi-dimensional therapist based upon avantgarde-jazz approaches.

Zappaish complicated hustle bustle avenue and cool piano sound palace ... they all musical collaborators might be a perfect quintet methinks. One of their remarkable sound points is they would play their style intensively along with leanings toward free-form jazz (the fourth track "Transcendental Floss" a bit reminds me of Yosuke Yamash'ta Trio), and this point itself might mist or blur impression of originality, their instrumental technique should be awesome though.

Very positive phase is kaleidoscopic appearance of the third (and the shortest in this album) track "Between 7 And 11" filled with improvised piano play-based sound landscape crystallized via all of instruments. On the other hand, the second shot "The Szuite" sounds flooded with Zeuhl-ish quirkiness, inspired sound chasing, and therapeutic surrealism, especially in the beginning or the middle. As if their cogwheels could perfectly engage with each other, there is no awkwardness nor irritation but another massive weird sense of unity.

This moment to enjoy this production notifies us of a pity this be his only one (official) release. No novelty nor innovative brilliance can be heard indeed but we can get freak out by their incredible atmospheric development with superb play and technique. Why can we ignore such an excellent obscurity?

Review by Mellotron Storm
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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars HERMANN SZOBEL is a true musical enigma whose cult following as only grown big time since he released his one and only album SZOBEL in 1976 and then disappeared for time immemorial. Considered a child prodigy in his native Vienna, Austria, a six year SZOBEL spent the majority of his time practicing Chopin pieces. After some time he would also find inspiration in more contemporary artists like Marital Solal and Keith Jarrett but it was Frank Zappa who turned him onto the possibilities of jazz-fusion in a totally new paradigm and sent him off into a bizarre new world of fusionist's dreams.

By the age of 17, the enigmatic SZOBEL was commissioned to record an album and a team of seasoned jazz and classical musicians were assembled to help him accomplish this daunting task since SZOBEL was a bona vide virtuoso pianist who had constructed some of the most demanding and complex musical scores since that sound as if they are part jazz, part classical and part avant-prog chamber rock a la Henry Cow. The team included Michael Visceglia (bass), Bob Goldman (drums), Dave Samuels (percussion, marimba, Vibraphone) and Vadim Vyadro (tenor sax, clarinet, flute.)

The recording sessions were awkward as SZOBEL was eccentric, unpredictable and at least half the age of the other musicians on board so the whole process was deemed laborious and time consuming. However despite it all, SZOBEL managed to crank out one of the true under appreciated gems of the entire jazz-fusion stock of the 70s with his unique brand of jazzed up fusion. While SZOBEL's finger-melting piano antics are clearly the star of the show, the music was constructed to showcase a band experience and therefore every musician has time to explore the sonic textures that ooze out of every motif with gusto.

While primarily in the field of jazz, the subordinate genera of rock and classical conspire to create an intricately designed series of technical workouts. Generally speaking the tempos flutter around slowly with energetic explosions of virtuosic workouts displaying a wickedly cool contrast. It's almost as if the Weather Report suddenly flicked on the switch and became the Mahavishnu Orchestra during its most demanding moments. Decorated with suffocating polyrhythms and nuanced virtuosic stampedes of sound, SZOBEL is an album that both captures the zeitgeist of 70s jazz-fusion while steering the technical gymnastics into breathtaking performances more akin to some of Cecil Taylor's most outrageous works.

Completely an instrumental affair, the five tracks each exhibit a mysterious charm much like the teenage mastermind who crafted them. While the main jazzy elements give this SZOBEL album a clear connection to the 70s jazz-fusion sounds, the extra touches of the marimba and vibraphone add a warmth that is missing from much jazz and despite the music being focused on the technical workouts, the compositions are well balanced and crafted in clever nuanced ways that display SZOBEL's talents as a composer to be equal with his technical fury. Despite the roster of influences on board, SZOBEL managed to sound like a seasoned professional with a sound all its own on HERMANN's first (and only) album at the tender age of 17.

Despite a bright and promising career from one of the under-appreciated jazz heroes of the 70s, HERMANN SZOBEL suffered a nervous breakdown during the recording sessions and joined the short but notable list of musicians like Syd Barrett who at their prime suddenly retreated from the music scene and thrust themselves into hermitic isolation. In fact SZOBEL not only left the world of music as quickly as he entered it but seemed to disappear completely with nobody knowing where he went or what he has done all these years since. While rumored to live in Austria still, he has obviously completely reinvented himself and successfully escaped attention ever since which is a true shame because SZOBEL is one of the most delicately designed jazz-fusion albums i've ever come across. While this album was obscure even when it was released, like all slow burners, SZOBEL's one and only album has become a belated classic.

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