Bert Jansch…R.I.P

I was very sad to learn today that Bert Jansch  has died of lung cancer. I was lucky enough to catch the man back-stage at the London Fleadh in 2000 which I will always remember as we shared a banana in his caravan prior to the interview.

Bert was a virtuoso guitarist, hailed by the likes of Jimmy Page,  Neil Young and Johnny Marr of the Smiths as a force to be reckoned with -and learned from, and was  recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time. He was also a prolific songwriter. The man was at the very center of the British folk revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s . He was a founder member of Pentangle, who were unique, with their slightly different, visionary mix of folk and jazz music that found a huge audience for its complex arrangements and stunning musicianship.

His solo career was bookended by the outstanding “Bert Jansch” album in 1965 – recorded on borrowed guitars – and the critically acclaimed “Black Swan” CD released in 2006.

Neil Young, who earlier this year invited Jansch to open for him on a 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, Bert’s U.K. concert booking agent said: “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 was born in Scotland, & was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music in 2007 by Edinburgh Napier University.

Pentangle was hailed by critics and fans for providing modern renditions of classic folk songs, helping to keep traditional music alive and vibrant, and also for innovative, jazz-inflected new material. They attracted a substantial following in an era when Bob Dylan, Donovan, Fairport Convention and others were looking to traditional acoustic sounds for inspiration.

Bert’s final performance was at with  Pentangle at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Aug. 1. Bert died at the Marie Curie Hospice in north London. He  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.”

Bert  is survived by his wife, Loren, and son, Adam.

Celtus At the Royal Festival Hall on Monday 13th March, 2000

Celtus greenThe air was filled with gathering excitement as we waited for Celtus to appear on stage. Our first view was of Dan bathed in a soft eerie glow as he conjured up the introduction to “Two Worlds”. Then light erupted around John as he appeared from nowhere, low whistle in hand radiating a strong stage presence. Pat’s faultless rhythm guitar combined with the multi-coloured backdrop of swirling light patterns created an impressive backdrop that was both visually and musically stunning.

Celtus dsc0028“The Pilgrim” led the way as we followed the morning star of rousing chorus and amazing harmonies along this musical journey.

“Strange Day in the Country” and “Moon Child” have a special place in my heart, as these songs were my first introduction to the band. The low Irish whistle and soft but powerful vocals and chants combined with Pat’s stunning electric guitar work were awesome.

Celtus dsc0038It was time for “The Awakening”, a haunting melodic instrumental that releases the spirit to a state of liberation. At this moment my mind wandered and I thought to myself I ‘m at the Royal Festival Hall in London on the 13th March 2000, the next chapter of the Celtus story. This night will herald the new chapter as the day, John, Pat and Dan reset the standard of live performance, for me a bench mark for all future musical events I attend.

“Touch you” and “Believe” followed – two beautifully crafted songs with a strong message of peace, understanding and hope.

Celtus dsc0042There was also some fantastic tracks played from the new album “Rooted”, one such masterpiece was “Navigator”. Dan’s introduction to this track is like a new journey, full of the anticipation and the danger into the unknown. Johns low whistle comes in like an old friend and Pat’s fiddle verges on a controlled state of mayhem. Navigator works so well, it’s like losing your way briefly only to find that you were going the right way in the first place. The combination of low whistle, fiddle and futuristic keyboard is pure unexpected joy.

Celtus dsc0062The mighty “Cathedral” arrives, with its undercurrents of secrets of bygone “habits” which plague the Catholic Church. The piece towers over all in its delivery, spreading its sinister shadow as it grows undetected across the land. This is one of the most powerful and disturbing songs I’ve heard for some time.

Celtus bandI’ve been asked what is the one thing that makes Celtus the band it is today. Some may say it’s John’s vocal control and gifted low whistle technique, others may say it’s Pat’s diversity of guitar structure and fiddle technique or it could be Dan’s fusion of past and present synthesised sounds. I can’t put it down to any one of these things, for me it’s the sum of the many parts that makes Celtus unique, giving a new dimension to the folk/rock/roots scene.

The Folkmaster, 17th March, 2000

The Set List as follows:

1. Two Worlds
2. The Pilgrim
3. Navigator
4. Strange Day In The Country
5. Moonchild
6. The Awakening
7. Touch You
8. Believe
9. Moment In Time
10. Dear Irish Boy
11. Wasteland
12 Claddagh
13 Wide Awake
14 Bubble
15 Portrait
16 Cathedral
17 We Two Are One
18 Purple Diadem

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