Previously unavailable on CD, Hermann Szobel’s “Szobel” was originally released by Arista Records in 1976. Over the years the album has established a worldwide cult following and the mysterious Mr. Szobel has become a bit of an enigma. Szobel was a 17-year virtuoso pianist who arrived from Austria with aspirations to become a star in the world of jazz. He also happened to be the nephew of rock impresario Bill Graham. Originally intended for release on Arista’s Freedom jazz imprint, the decision was made by Clive Davis to release the debut album on Arista proper in order to give it a chance at a broader appeal. An extraordinary band was assembled to record Szobel’s highly complex music: Michael Visceglia on bass, Bob Goldman on drums, Dave Samuels on percussion including marimba and vibraphone, and Vadim Vyadro on tenor sax, clarinet, and flute.Szobel was highly influenced by Martial Solal and Frank Zappa. His compositions are rooted in jazz, rock and Western classical composition. They are extremely complex and the recording sessions were quite laborious. While he gives space to all of the musicians, his phenomenal technique as a pianist is clearly displayed. In the September 6, 1976 issue of Downbeat the review said that Szobel had “a conception and technique far in advance of most musicians twice his age.” Upon its release the album did not sell well and Szobel’s behavior became more and more eccentric. In the middle of recording a second (still unreleased) album, rumor has it that he suffered a mental breakdown. He disappeared from the music world forever. Since then rumors have swirled and a mythology has been created. Unconfirmed reports have Mr. Szobel currently living in Austria. “Szobel” has now been mastered for CD release by audiophile engineer Bob Katz. Extensive liner notes by bassist Michael Visceglia unlock some of the mysteries of Hermann Szobel.
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