Review of Basket Full of Dragons a tribute to Robbie Basho Vol II, Obsolete Recordings, 2016
Robbie Basho was and still is something much more than a guitar player, or musician. Even something more, I try to define as a musical “kami”. Kami (in Japanese there isn’t the distinction between plural and singular) are objects of worship for the Shinto faith, this term indicates an honor for the noble and sacred spirits, which implies a sense of respect and adoration for their power and authority. Since, for Shintoism, all beings (living or not) have such spirits, the human being (as indeed every other) could be considered as a kami or a potential one, especially if, during its existence, it’s been distinguished for his nobility of spirit and for his rectitude.
Robbie Basho I’ve always imagined it … as an acoustic twelve-string guitar kami, not a saint of the Catholic religion, not a saint, no, too distant, saints are too pure, I don’t believe that Basho would never even become interested about it. Along with John Fahey, Basho is one of the two great figures of American acoustic guitar, two complementary, equally fascinating and complex figures. In a sense one might venture to say that they are two sides of the same coin: both started from the traditional American music, from fingerpicking blues and folk prewar records and then they bring it to a higher level, integrating it with classical Indian music, with European classical music, each with his own personal feeling. A more troubled figure and obsessed with his own ghosts, Fahey, more sensitive, more spiritual Basho.
I first met Fahey and only after some years Basho, whose discography was not reprinted in the same way and whose worship was more “esoteric” among the guitarists to Fahey. To even keep me a little bit away from Basho was a certain idea of “new age”, I always hated that association.
Basho was well beyond the trivial disquisitions or theories on the Aquarius’s new age. Basho was a giant who has been able to create and show a personal and innovative way, I realized it when I started to collect his CDs beginning with the two collections made from Takoma titled Guitar Soli and Bashovia, which I highly recommend to anyone still interested at listening to his music.
But here we have this tribute, the second after the “We Are One, In The Sun: A Tribute To Robbie Basho” made in 2010, released by Important Records. In these years Basho’s cult has grown up, about the new fingerpicking levers as Matt Valentine, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Glenn Jones, James Blackshaws, Ben Chasny and the great Jack Rose, who were able to catalyze new attention on his figure.
It’s nice to see and feel the affection that surrounds Basho, because I think with this record we go beyond the simple tribute, there are thirteen tracks all performed by different artists, but all with a common idea of Basho’s style. And for style I don’t just mean just his open tunings or his use of alternating bass that reminded the drones of Indian classical music, I mean something more than mere “technicality”, but the essence of his music, its simplicity that actually hides a great complexity of thought, that being lightweight but not trivial, that spiritual sense that never degenerates into trivial affectation.
Guitar players involved here are all interesting names: the great Glenn Jones playing with Matthew Azevedo (harmonium), Chuck Johnson, Buck Curran joined by Italian singer Adele H, the player of the Syrian oud Tammam Saeed and percussionist April Centrone, the Italian guitarist Paolo Laboule Novellino, the duo of Henry Kaiser and Michael Gulezian, Israeli composer Yair Yona, Twelve Hides with Ben Tweddell, Mike Tamburo, collaboration between Mariano Rodriguez, Karina Vismara and Jonah Schwartz and singer Eva Sheppard accompanied by his father Jesse Sheppard to the 12-string guitar. Excellent record.Viva Basho.
1. Portrait of Basho as a Young Dragon – Glenn Jones & Matthew Azevedo (USA)
2. Fog upon the Moon – Tammam Saeed & April Centrone(Syria & USA)
3. Manifestations of the Sun – Adele H & Buck Curran (Italy & USA)
4. Walk in Beauty: A Healing Way Song – Richard Osborn (USA)
5. Salangadou – Eva Sheppard and Jesse Sheppard (USA)
6. Pasha – Paolo Laboule Novellino (Italy)
7. Kahlil Gibran – Yair Yona Music (Israel)
8. Golden Rose at Dawn – Chuck Johnson (USA)
9. California Raga – Twelve Hides (UK)
10. The Rediscovery of the Basho Cathedral – Steffen Basho-Junghans (Germany)
11. Enigmatic Eagle – Michael Gulezian and Henry Kaiser (USA)
12. The Chameleon and the Crow – Mike Tamburo (USA)
13. Wine Song of Love – Mariano Rodriguez, Jonah Schwartz, Karina Vismara (Argentina & UK)