Review Summary: Skill is the key!
You don’t have to be acquainted to progressive rock in order to recognize the artwork for The Court Of The Crimson King
. For some reason (don’t ask me why) I tend to imagine the twisted grin that decorates the cover when I listen to something of restless, intense and/or eclectic nature. Perhaps "Mirrors" is to blame and perhaps that one image is naturally representative of a mad, trancelike condition akin to the character of its music. This rule is mostly applicable to febrile art. When the musician’s instrument has generated enough heat to seemingly touch your very skin beyond the speakers. When the musicianship is so wondrously compact it’s almost as if you lose control of your toes and fingers, which alternately raps in harmony with the artist’s commando. Hermann Szobel, anyone? No? Don’t worry, I didn’t think so.
Hermann Szobel’s debut holds an indeed curious history. Last in line when speaking of equal musicians; first in line when comparing talent. The flatiron building modestly adorns a not-so-seductive cover but its content projects insane fusion jazz with avant-gardeish features and captivating crescendos of top quality. Szobel was no more than an 18 year old music prodigy who already competed with musicians twice his age at the time of his debut release in 1976. It’s not an underrated record. That would firstly require it having actually been properly exposed to an audience. One rarely speak of Hermann Szobel in the same breath as Frank Zappa, Miles Davis or Henry Cow. And though age won’t really place albums in objective hierarchy, the prominent talent that makes itself heard on "The Suite"’s crazy middle part in parallel to "Transcendental Floss" and "Between 7 & 11"s throughout brilliant dynamics cannot be underestimated.
In unity with abovementioned musicians, Szobel
is a curious piece of art. A rich selection of instrument not limited to saxophones, marimba, xylophone, clarinet and flutes accompany the main character’s distinctive piano. Skill and finesse is the key. Even occasional nuances of western modern classical-elements tend to inflict with the sound. They are the heritage of Szobel’s background; at the mere age of six he had already begun his classical training. Rumors report that an almost embarrassing unawareness for that reason had kept him ignorant of the jazz scene, and that he knew nothing of Henry Cow or Frank Zappa. To whether or not there’s truth to such gossip I take little notion but a curious history sprung from a curious character would only naturally appear as… curious! After the release of his debut, Szobel mysteriously disappeared without a trace and was never heard from again. It’s safe to say that his legacy to jazz music weighs heavily on the shoulders of people who are aware of its presence. Wherever he is, if he’s even alive, I sincerely thank him for Szobel
- a modest chef-d'oeuvre that I advise anyone who’s up for an intense fusion jazz roller coaster to make friends with.