Robbie Basho
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Seal Of The Blue Lotus (Takoma, 1965), 7/10
The Grail And the Lotus (Takoma, 1966), 7.5/10
Basho Sings (Takoma, 1967), 5/10
Falconer's Arm (Takoma, 1967), 7.5/10
Venus In Cancer (Takoma, 1970) , 8/10
Song Of The Stallion (Takoma, 1971) , 8/10
The Voice Of The Eagle (Vanguard, 1972) , 5/10
Zarthus (Vanguard, 1974) , 6.5/10
Visions Of The Country (Third Ear, 1978) , 5/10
Art Of The Acoustic Steel String Guitar (Lost Lake Arts, 1979) , 5/10
Rainbow Thunder (Silver, 1981), 5/10
Bouquet (Basho, 1983) , 5/10
Twilight Peaks (Vital Body, 1984) , 5/10
Links:

Summary.
The mysterious Robbie Basho (Daniel Robinson, born 1940 in Baltimore) took up John Fahey's solo-guitar music, wed it to eastern mysticism (way before new-age music was invented), mixed in elements of middle-eastern, Indian, Latin and Japanese music (way before world-music was invented), and added experimentation derived from jazz improvisation (way before fusion was invented). Seal Of The Blue Lotus (1965), The Grail And the Lotus (1966) and Falconer's Arm (1967) are simply unique. Venus In Cancer (1969) and Song Of The Stallion (1971) are more than unique.
Full bio.
(Translated from the Italian by Troy Sherman)

Robbie Basho (born Daniel Robinson) was the most mysterious of the solo guitar experimenters: originally a religious folk-singer in school, he eventually coined an ethno-music spiritualism that assimilated white music, black music, Latin music (flamenco), and oriental music (Indian, Persian, Japanese). His goal was to create classical music for the “steel stringed guitar.” His intent remained largely unrealistic for him, yet served to create a condition of great musical awareness for future generations of guitarists.

Robinson changed his name in honor of the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. He fell in love with the Indian raga in 1962 when he discovered Ravi Shankar. His musical career truly began when he met John Fahey in Seattle. Seal of the Blue Lotus (Takoma, 1965 – Fantasy, 1966), The Grail and the Lotus (Takoma, 1966), and the tracks recorded in February, 1966 that are collected on Guitar Soli (Takoma, 1996) are largely improvised, and they scan along the lines of Indian raga. They are still naïve and fairytale-esque, even in the radiant visions of the exotic Dharma Prince and Golden Shamrock (both from the second, more delicate record).

From the liner notes of The Grail and the Lotus (Takoma, 1966):

-The Grail and the Lotus was composed in the mood of mediaeval England at the time of the Crusades: first the Chimes of Morning -then the beginning theme taken from an old ballad, "If you must go and I must stay." The crusader lingers with his lady awhile -takes his leave of her and sets his mind for the journey. He embarks on his search for the grail on a solid Dm chord and fulfils his quest in a series of Shuttle movements filled with the nectar of Oriental flowers, reaching a climax in the ringing of the bell. Instead of putting forth to clout some poor alien over the head for a bloody cup -one may sit still and dream and find the golden grail inside. -The Dharma Prince is an experiment using the steel 6 in expressing Japanese Koto movements. Musically the seed is down in India and moves directly into Japanese patterns with an ear to the Rokudan and other classical Koto pieces. This is a first attempt and has a long way to go till perfection: starting in India, going to a foreign country for the first time, exploring with an attitude of respect, then returning. The tuning is standard, in the key of Am. -Oriental Love Song is based on a song with words by Mary Koth, an ex-school teacher in New York. Both playing and singing she is one of the deepest women I have heard, and this is an Oriental setting. Simply put by a friend, "It is a song to fill crevasses and windy hills of the heart." The tuning used here is a Dm modal -the two E strings down to a D, and the B string down to its minor. -The Golden Shamrock is a raga in disguise, combining delicate Hindu movement with hard double thumbing, Fahey style. The structure is simple: beginning with an invocation to the Golden People of Past Time, the main theme is an Irish Scabbard (golden barnacled with gems) and a White Lotus Blade: the soft blade is drawn from the hard scabbard, completes a series of movements (ie Katas) and returns to the scabbard. This drawing of the blade and retuning occurs intermittently until a climax is met. In short, this is a blend of Irish American and Hindu utilizing the scabbard structure. It is played in C tuning. -Street Dakini "Slaughter on the 10th Avenue" to me is one of the most moving pieces in American music. I think of Gershwin, but it is Rogers. It is a fantastic experience to play on the guitar. I dig the idea of lotus pedals falling on the Lower East Side. A Dakini is a female apparation of spirituality (not necessarily Tibetan Buddhist) who comes to those who need her and have Right Attitude. She can be an astral gift or just a chick walking - she comes - she passes - there is nothing to hold on to. The tuning is open G. -Chung Mei - Chinese Orchid a wistful Irish air wich then pops into China where the word moves in harmony with a 4000 year old fan. There are Intermezzo moods of blues and Western classic between the folding and unfolding of the fan, until the dream ends as it began, in San Francisco. The piece is played in standard tuning, key of Em.

Basho Sings (Takoma, 1967) is a minor test of self-experimentation (on which he sings). On Contemporary Guitar (1967) another landmark composition appears: The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose (16 minutes).

The two part album, Falconer’s Arm (Takoma, 1967), although marred by some meddling, is located at the farthest end of guitar trials. Basho presses in some lively raga to a Scottish beat (Falconer’s Arm) and a four movement symphony for solo guitar called Lost Lagoon Suite, which was inspired by popular legends and packed with narrative and dramatic effects. The titanic and mournful Pasha and the heroic, hare-krishna hymn Song of God, a consecrated tour de force of guitar like no other.

Venus in Cancer (Blue Thumb, 1969 – Tompkins Square, 2006), and especially Song of the Stallion (Takoma, 1971)) sublimate Basho’s fusion of raga and country. Both records are uninterrupted waves of cascading agreements of vitalism and impetuous torrents. The masterpieces on these records would close the great season of Basho’s career as an independent loner. He would die of cancer in 1986.

Basho is the folk musician who was able to more consciously abstract and universalize the transcendent spirit of the raga and transfer it into the Great American infinite meadows and green hills. He was able to put marry the virgin nature, the savage wild, and human ambitions.

Venus In Cancer (Blue Thumb, 1969 - Tompkins Square, 2006)

Tracks:

nine-minute Venus In Cancer,

Eagle Sails The Blue Diamond Waters,

ten-minute Kowaka D'Amour,

nine-minute Song For The Queen,

eight-minute Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis,

Wine Song - Sweet Wine Of Love.

The Voice of the Eagle (Vanguard, 1972 – Comet, 2001) is an album of collected pieces rather than “songs.”

Zarthus (Vanguard, 1974) still contains extended tracks such as the long Rhapsody in Druz, but it is spoled by excessive use of its own content.

His career would end with Visions of the Country (Third Ear, 1978 – Windham Hill, 1978), Art Of The Acoustic Steel String Guitar (Lost Lake Arts, 1979), Rainbow Thunder (Silver, 1981), Bouquet (Basho, 1983 ), Twilight Peaks (Vital Body, 1984 - Windham Hill, 1985).

Bonn Ist Supreme (Bo Weavil, 2008) documents a live performance from 1980.

Robbie Basho died in February of 1986 at 45.

Bashovia (Takoma, 2001) is an anthology drawn from Falconer's Arm and Song of the Stallion.

Robbie Basho (Daniel Robinson) è il più misterioso degli sperimentatori per sola chitarra: folk-singer di Berkeley religioso a modo suo, ha coniato una etno-musica spiritualista che assimila musica bianca, musica nera, musica latina (flamenco) e musica orientale (indiana, persiana, giapponese). Il suo obiettivo era di creare una musica classica per la "steel string guitar": se il suo intento è rimasto largamente velleitario, servì comunque a creare i presupposti per una maggior consapevolezza nella generazione successiva di chitarristi.

Robinson cambio` nome in onore al poeta giapponese Matsuo Basho. Si innamoro` dei raga nel 1962 quando scopri` Ravi Shankar. La sua carriera musicale ebbe inizio quando conobbe John Fahey a Seattle. Seal Of The Blue Lotus (Takoma, 1965 - Fantasy, 1996) e The Grail And the Lotus (Takoma, 1966), registrato nel febbrario 1966, poi raccolti su Guitar Soli (Takoma, 1996), largamente improvvisati e scanditi sulla falsariga dei raga, sono ancora naive e favolistici, anche nelle radiose visioni esotiche di Dharma Prince e Golden Shamrock (sul secondo, più delicato e leggiadro).

Basho Sings (Takoma, 1967) e` una prova minore. Su Contemporary Guitar (1967) compare un'altra composizione miliare, The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose (16 minuti).

Ma il doppio Falconer's Arm (Takoma, 1967), sia pur guastato da qualche intromissione del suo imbarazzante tenore, si situa al limite estremo della sperimentazione chitarristica. Basho incalza in scatenati raga a ritmo scozzese (Falconer's Arm) e nella sinfonia in quattro movimenti per sola chitarra Lost Lagoon Suite, ispirata alle leggende popolari e stracolma di effetti narrativo/drammatici. Il titanico lamento in flamenco di Pasha e l'eroico inno hare- krishna Song Of God consacrano un tour de force chitarristico senza eguali.

Venus In Cancer (Blue Thumb, 1969 - Tompkins Square, 2006) e soprattutto Song Of The Stallion (Takoma, 1971) in cui si sublima la sua "fusion" di country e raga, sono flussi ininterrotti di accordi in cascata che originano da un vitalismo impetuoso e torrenziale. Con questi capolavori si chiuderà la grande stagione di questo indipendente solitario, morto di cancro nel 1986.

Basho è il musicista folk che più consciamente ha saputo astrarre e universalizzare lo spirito trascendente dei raga, trasferirlo nell'infinito delle grandi praterie e delle verdi colline americane, sposarlo al respiro della natura vergine e selvaggia.

Venus In Cancer (Blue Thumb, 1969 - Tompkins Square, 2006)
Tracks:
nine-minute Venus In Cancer,
Eagle Sails The Blue Diamond Waters,
ten-minute Kowaka D'Amour,
nine-minute Song For The Queen,
eight-minute Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis,
Wine Song - Sweet Wine Of Love.

The Voice Of The Eagle (Vanguard, 1972 - Comet, 2001) e` invece un album di "canzoni".

Zarthus (Vanguard, 1974) contiene ancora la lunga Rhapsody in Druz, ma e` guastato da un uso eccessivo del suo tenore.

La sua carriera finira` con Visions Of The Country (Third Ear, 1978 - Windham Hill, 1978), Art Of The Acoustic Steel String Guitar (Lost Lake Arts, 1979), Rainbow Thunder (Silver, 1981), Bouquet (Basho, 1983), Twilight Peaks (Vital Body, 1984 - Windham Hill, 1985).

Bonn Ist Supreme (Bo Weavil, 2008) documents a live performance of 1980.

Robbie Basho died in february 1986 at 45.

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