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Jazz: World Fusion World: World Fusion Moods: Featuring Guitar Moods: Type: Instrumental World: Middle East Contemporary

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Richard Robeson

North Carolina native was working as a software documentation editor in 1979 when he met one of his greatest musical heroes, guitarist and composer Ralph Towner, after an Oregon concert in Chapel Hill. A year later he was at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO, fulfilling the dream of learning from Towner directly, instead of simply (or not so simply) being limited to studying his vast body of recorded work, which even then was an education in itself. After having spent most of his early adulthood trying to find something he liked better than music, Robeson had concluded by that point that there was no such thing. He opened his teaching studio in 1981, after returning to North Carolina from Boulder.

He has composed scores for dance and theater, including a collaboration with harmonica virtuoso Chris Turner on the score for Trinity Repertory Theater’s (Providence, RI) production of August Wilson’s Fences, which was not only the first production of Fences to use original music, it was also Trinity’s first-ever commercial release of a soundtrack of one of its productions.

Robeson was a founding member of the critically acclaimed Micro-East Collective, a 24-piece improv orchestra that he liked to call “post-Cage.” The three releases, 062099, Out of My Face, and Fabric, remain featured listings in the Umbrella Recordings catalog. One reviewer called Robeson’s “Oxygen Debt” (Fabric) a “fantastic” cross between Duke Ellington and film composer Bernard Hermann.

A lifelong interest in the art of improvisation, beginning with the blues and rock & roll as a teenager, led inevitably to jazz, which led inevitably to some of the world’s other great improvisational traditions. A number of his teachers have come from Indian classical music traditions, the most important by far being the first, Dr. Hamid Hossein, whose talent and generosity as a teacher made the logic of Hindustani classical music not only accessible but a living, breathing thing (“Very scientific,” he would say).
The cultural and historical connections between Indian music, flamenco and Arabic & Middle Eastern music eventually became not only obvious but inescapable. This was especially so when in 1987 Robeson and his fellow members of the quartet “Thelonious Society” played a 3-week concert tour of Morocco under the auspices of the US State Department and the Moroccan Ministry of Culture. The music, all Robeson compositions, and performances were well-received by wildly enthusiastic crowds at every venue, but he also came away from the experience with a deep appreciation for the fact that Southern Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco and almost all of North Africa, was once a single region (“The Maghrib,” Arabic for “The West.)

moonlight over the maghrib, Robeson’s first solo recording in over 25 years, is his homage to the region and its rich history, including Southern Spain as the birthplace of the guitar