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Avocet: Bert Jansch – Soaring flight of musicianship,
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This review is from: Avocet (Audio CD)
First released in 1979, this is the twelfth solo album from the inestimable Bert Jansch. It has been said that it was his favourite, and I would guess that it also the favourite of many of his fans.
By the time this was recorded Jansch already had an impressive body of work behind him, from the folk rock of his Pentangle albums, his blues influenced early solo work and his more recent West coast influenced material. It was all invariably excellent stuff, but this album, for me, stands head and shoulders above the rest.
For the first time this is a solely instrumental album, concentrating on Jansch’s celebrated guitar work, uninhibited and undistracted by vocalisations. There are six tracks, each named after a sea or wading bird. Each track is a musical vignette that suits the temperament and personality of each bird to a tee. The masterpiece is the 17 minute opening track, Avocet. It’s a work of genius, never descending into mindless guitar twiddling (a la the contemporary prog genre) but with a clear musical vision and sense of purpose. Complex and enthralling music gushes forth from Jansch’s guitar, falling from the strings like a waterfall, with eddying currents that swirl along, taking you up and carrying down a musical river, depositing you refreshed and enlightened on the far bank.
People often characterise this, and Jansch, as purely folk, but the album and the artist are so much more than that. Yes, it has it’s roots in British folk, but there is a lot more mixed in to make up a musical smorgasbord of styles. I can’t even begin to comprehend how difficult this stuff must have been to play, it’s a real tour de force.
There were three people involved in the recording, Jansch on guitar and piano, Danny Thompson on bass and Martin Jenkins on the wonderfully named mandocello, flute and violin. It’s Jansch’s show, but the other two do a marvellous job of supporting him, and all three work together well, knowing instinctively what is required at any given moment. There is not a note out of place, I think that this is a perfect recording.
This release is pretty plain with a decent mastering that gives good clarity. There is no bonus material as with the re-releases of Jansch’s Charisma albums. No problems though, this is a masterpiece that needs no embellishment. 5 stars unreservedly.