Bert Jansch: 1943 - 2011

posted by Jason Verlinde

Bert Jansch: 1943 - 2011

Bert Jansch -- monumental Scottish folk musician, founder of Pentangle and the coolest guy to play a Yamaha -- passed away on the morning of October 5, 2011 after a long battle with lung cancer.

The last five years of Jansch's life were filled with health issues, but also musical triumphs: he also was able to tour the States opening for pal Neil Young, garner much-deserved lifetime achievement awards and see a Pentangle reunion. He was finally getting his due for being such an influential guitarist.

We were lucky enough to get a Jansch interview in the Fretboard Journal #20 (available online here). I sat in and took photos while contributor Bob Douglas did the interview. Jansch was as nice as any musician could be, gentle and forthcoming with answers. I loved the fact that, besides being such a great guitarist and singer, he was at the forefront of the modern lutherie movement. In the '70s, he opened an ill-fated shop specializing in hand-built acoustic guitars, a generation before outlets such as Dream Guitars or Guitar Gallery would make a successful business model out of it. Ironically, the only guitars that he could sell at his shop were Yamahas, which he ended up playing till the very end of his life.

Though his guitar playing was stellar from day one, my favorite Jansch recordings are those found on LA Turnaround, the ahead-of-its-time Mike Nesmith-produced album from 1974 that also featured steel guitar great Red Rhodes. I can listen to this disc endlessly; it is quite simply timeless. Luckily, besides the remastered album, there's some great film footage featuring the Turnaround sessions (see below). Enjoy and rest in peace, Bert. You made the music world a better place.

What was your favorite Jansch record? We'd love to know.