Bert Jansch: Avocet (Earth/Southbound)

 |   |  1 min read

Bert Jansch: Avocet (Earth/Southbound)

The late Scottish singer/guitarist and songwriter Bert Jansch who co-founded the influential Pentangle and died in 2011, left a vast legacy which many are still coming to terms with.

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page -- as a young man then smitted by American blues guitarists -- has said of Jansch's self-titled debut album of '65, "When I first heard that album I couldn't believe it. It was so far ahead of what everyone else was doing. No one in America could touch that".

And that debut was a decade and half before this cornerstone Jansch album. 

Reissue programmes have brought much of Jansch's music back to a new generation and his influence extends far beyond folk as rock musicians like Blur's Graham Coxon and post-folk players such as Ryley Walker  discover his style and sound.

This album -- recorded in Copenhagen and first released in '79 -- found Jansch (on guitar and piano) with former Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson and Martin Jenkins (flute, mandocello, violin) for a collection of what Jansch said were admittedly self-indulgent instrumentals (out just to please himself) around the theme of birds.

The 18 minute opening title track pegs out the ground -- folk improvisation, a masterclass in acoustic playing,  a sense of swing and a playful seriousness -- but each self-contaned piece thereafter (other than the almost eight minute Bittern) refines the focus.

On piano for the 90 second Lapwing, Jansch conveys a stately and brooding waltz; Jenkins' violin on Kingfisher alludes to Celtic melodies as Jansch and Thompson lay down a sharply percussive melodic base; and Osprey sounds like it starts its flight in Seville before moving closer to British folk.

Kittiwake is as complex but as clear and beautiful as an illustration in a medieval manuscript. 

1311faf2_ad94_4b13_8e7e_c6ba98b4b8baBittern captures the experimental and innovative side of Jansch, Thompson and Jenkins as the music stretches and weaves across what could almost be waves of electronica. Thompson's dextrous bass playing could grace any jazz album too.

This is a dleightful album -- Jansch considered it among his most favourite -- and it also gets respectful re-packaging.

The vinyl edition (limited to 1000 copies) comes in a gatefold sleeve with six lithographs of the birds by British illustrator Hannah Alice, and the CD version has a deluxe edition with the illustrations and liner notes in a 24 page booklet.

Bert Jansch -- and this music -- deserved no less.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Matt Langley: Featherbones (Hometown)

Matt Langley: Featherbones (Hometown)

Langley's rootsy EP Lost Companions of 2007 – recorded in Wellington – announced a mature lyricist and a singer with a delivery like the best Americana artists... > Read more

IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column which scoops up releases by international artists, in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere



Hollie Smith has always been busy, but getting her into a recording studio has been more difficult. It has been almost a decade since her imressive debut Long Player and six years since her... > Read more

Joe Louis Walker:  Hornet's Nest (Alligator/Southbound)

Joe Louis Walker: Hornet's Nest (Alligator/Southbound)

The furious and fiery, award-winning 64-year old Joe Louis Walker is, of course, a bluesman . . .  but you could equally file some of his material under "rock" and even "hard... > Read more