Bert Jansch 1943-2011
Bert Jansch just died. Not a lot of people know Jansch’s name these days, but when Bert Jansch picked up an acoustic guitar, people listened. I was introduced to Jansch’s music by my buddy, Taylor in 1996. I hadn’t heard his name before, but I knew his work and I liked what he did.
Jansch died of lung cancer Wednesday at the age of 67. He was a guitar virtuoso, who was looked up to by guys like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Neil Young, and Johnny Marr of the Smiths.
Bert Jansch–Folk and Jazz Artist
Bert Jansch was at the center of the British folk revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s at a time when British music – led by iconic bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who – dominated much of the pop world.
While blues-based supergroups like Cream, were known for their volume and pounding drums, Jansch started Pentangle, a nuanced mix of acoustic folk and jazz that found a huge audience for its complex arrangements and stunning musicianship.
Jansch’s solo career started with the outstanding “Bert Jansch” album in 1965 – recorded on borrowed guitars – and ended with the critically acclaimed “Black Swan” CD released in 2006.
Bert Jansch–Guitar Innovator
Neil Young, who earlier this year invited Jansch to open for him on an extended concert tour, said that Jansch created a new approach to the acoustic guitar much as Jimi Hendrix changed the sound of the electric guitar.
John Barrow, Jansch’s U.K. concert booking agent, said Jansch remained an influential figure even when his music was out of fashion.
“I’ve been his agent for just over 10 years and when I met him he was at a low ebb and not really getting the recognition he deserved,” Barrow said. “But it is a measure of the man that he had at that point continued playing in a pub in Carnaby Street in London. Even at that time Liam and Noel Gallagher from Oasis were turning up at that pub to listen to him.”
Bert Jansch–that’s Dr. Bert Jansch
Scotish-born Jansch, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music in 2007 by Edinburgh Napier University. Guitarist Haftor Medboe, a musician in residence at the university, said Jansch had a distinctive sound that was difficult to define.
“Bert was a musician who was genuinely unique and was able to cross genres,” he said. “He was a virtuoso player and could create incredible sounds from his guitar, but he was also very soulful and imbued the instrument with a passion and elegance on a par with any of the great guitarists. It is no surprise that so many great artists name check him as an influence. He was the quintessential musician’s musician.”
Jansch was recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time.
Jansch’s band, Pentangle was hailed by critics and fans for providing modern renditions of classic folk songs, helping to keep traditional music alive and vibrant, while also creating innovative, jazz-inflected new material.
In an era when Bob Dylan, Donovan, Fairport Convention and others were looking to traditional acoustic sounds for inspiration, Pentangle attracted a substantial following with their own.
Mick Houghton, who had known Jansch since his early days on the music scene, said the guitarist died at the Marie Curie Hospice in north London. Jansch had recently been forced to cancel several planned solo concerts because of his failing health.
Folk singer Eddi Reader called Jansch “a gentle, gentle gentleman.” In a message on Twitter she said: “God speed, darlin’ Bert – get us on the guest list.”
Jansch is survived by his wife, Loren, and son, Adam.
There are so many good musicians out there. It’s often difficult to keep up with everyone. It’s too bad that sometimes it takes a guy kicking the bucket to remind us of how good he actually was. Bert Jansch.