There are a number of venerable names in music, and Daniel Robinson Jr.'s is one of them. Don't recognize it? That's because you know him as 'Robbie Basho'. The guy was an adoptee and changed his name later on, taking the surname as homage to the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. However, the latterday Basho studied with John Fahey, influenced by what became the Takoma label gang, distinguishing himself in particular by adapting raga styles into a fairly unorthodox methodology. Basho's continues to be influential long after his death in 1986, but Rich Osborn studied privately with him in the 60s. One day, however, a chisel tore deeply into his thumb, forcing a 20 year hiatus in music making, during which time he took up painting and has had several large gallery showings. Now, however, he's back on the ol' six-string first love, and, because his thumb has only regained 80% of its strength, has developed a slow raga style that's quite convincing.
Giving Voice is entirely of solo compositions, all his own, and the very first cut is a tempered thoughtful expository revealing deep attention to what's actually being said in Carnatic and similar modes. Not unlike the Japanese Basho's haikai / hokku / haiku poetry, Osborn's simple lines express waves of imagery, a gestural tactic not easy to master, and thus we see little of it anywhere save in such germinal instances as Erik Satie and similar composers. Robbie Basho had wanted to make the steel string guitar a concert instrument, and Osborn forwards that intent well here, creating a chamber solo narrative that demands close quiet attention in order to inflow a wealth of subtleties. A warning, though: if you try to think things through on this cut, you'll interfere with the process and miss much. This is music that must be surrendered to.
Some of the other pieces are not quite so intensely oriented in that fashion, and one detects a bit of Toulouse Engelhardt's work as well, a little Peter Lang, definitely the Takoma lads (Kottke, Fahey, etc.), but always the larger element is of Osborn's own aesthetics and dominates. A good deal of that is improvisatory though it frequently sounds otherwise, naturally flowing from seedling ideas, doing so with a fluency that seems thoughtfully scripted. Anthony Braxton once said of Paul Desmond that you hear Paul thinking ten steps ahead of himself, making decisions every second, and there's a good deal of that here but, to these ears, much more in terms of internal and external landscapes combining. Don't for a second be deceived by the somewhat New Agey cover to this affair. This isn't Steven Halpern / Georgia Kelley schmaltz but full-blooded music-smithing, albeit, as Ralph Towner might put it, with the silence of a candle…illuminating gently complex baroque landscapes.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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