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Bert Jansch - Bert Jansch & Martin Jenkins: Avocet CD (album) cover


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5 stars - First review of this album -

This is one of my favourite Bert Jansch albums and probably the most proggy of his folk/jazz albums.

He went out on a limb in 1979 to produce a daring, experimental instrumental album that contains 6 tracks with the 18 minute title track being IMHO a masterpiece. On the title track the interplay between Jansch, Martin Jenkins and Danny Thompson is head shaking in its complexity, yet extremely satisfying in regards to it's melodic themes. Thompson does go off on some amazing acoustic double bass solo territory especially on the track Bittern.

The other 4 tracks are superb with Kingfisher being the best of these. To me Avocet is a masterpiece.

Please have a listen, you will not be disappointed.

Report this review (#732239)
Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a surprise and "pleasant" doesn't even begin to describe the feeling. At first I was hesitant about the content of the album. I liked the idea and the cover but sort of lacked the vocals of Jansch. Or so I thought, anyway.

The album consists of six instrumental pieces, vTying in lengts from a couple of minutes to the epic title track with it's striking 18 minutes in length. The songs are all varied but cling together very nicely, bringing musical texture to the wildlife presented on the cover. Now, I am not an ornothologist but I do see before me beautiful scenery with birds flying, eating or whatever they do do.

Avocet is, in essence, a bold step. Not really a too far cry from the folk he'd already produced, yet quite different. Maybe it is due to the fact that Jansch does not sing on the album or maybe it is more of a prog-folk album than anything else he had been recording up to that point. And besides, producing an album of this kind in 1978/1979 shows a musisician totally in control of his vision, being on top of his game. Avocet is a rare little gem, well worth discovering. If you are hesitant, try Kingfisher first. I guatantee you you won't be disappointed.

Report this review (#1023052)
Posted Sunday, August 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Saving the best for last.

Well, at least I was, as far as Bert Jansch album reviews. If any album in the Jansch canon could be considered pure Prog Folk, it's Avocet. Yet, I'm only the third reviewer of this incredible work from 1978 that Jansch never bettered, or even tried to.

It is, along with Rosemary Lane from 1971, a Jansch masterpiece. With only multi instrumentalist and drinking buddy Martin Jenkins (who is erroneously stated as this work's co author) and double bass great Danny Thompson from the Pentangle days, Jansch set out to produce his most daring work at a time of punk and other less than artistic genres.

The 18 minute title track is a reworking sparked off by the British traditional song The Cuckoo (the string picking American version), but's it's been morphed into something completely different by Bert and company. All instrumental, as are all of Avocet's songs, Jansch and company create a partially blank canvass in beautiful and dynamic musical suites that requires the listener to interpret the moods and place imaginary or real images inside of the songs. There's no percussion throughout this album as Jansch and Thompson's unorthodox playing styles incorporate string pops, snaps, slaps and all other kind of percussive sounds and supply their own percussion. Not even a bell or a chime is missed from the sound mix. Jenkin's is the melodic glue that hold these songs together with ultra melodic playing on both violin and flute while Jansch and Thompson engage in never ending guitar and bass duels punctuated by melodic contributions of their own.

Being a song suite is what render's Avocet progressive, but it's ultimately a beautiful song in which Jansch utilizes all his playing ability and individual style.

And if that wasn't impressive enough, the following song Lapwing displays Jansch on piano playing a hauntingly beautiful neo-classical piece that sounds like it could have easily been a prelude to an early seventies Turn Of The Cards era Renaissance song. Avocet is that kind of surprise album. The album's other four songs really need to be heard, especially the jazz fest Bittern (a treat for Pentangle fans that relished the deft improvisation of Thompson), and the ultra melodic hook laden Kingfisher, as descriptions by me would only do them a disservice.

The only downside to Avocet is some period sounding low level electric guitar used on a couple of songs to add color. The wah effect (even subtle) is terribly dated, even for 1978. But it's over quickly, just like this album is to the listener, as there's so much going on from and between the three core members including wonderful bass solos from Thompson, along with wonderfully rustic fiddle playing from Jenkins along with his deft mandocello paying that trades off the others on the album's fine closing track Kittiwake.

Avocet was an album made by Jansch on a whim. It's a once in a lifetime progressive rock achievement, and we're the better for having it. 5 stars.

Report this review (#1441397)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've always been a regular listener of early Bert Jansch - especially Nicola, Birthday Blues and Rosemary Lane. Already in the first seconds of Avocet, I knew this was a whole different album.

The violin, cello an the flute in the great first track (a whole epic of 17min in 1978!) gave a breath to Bert's guitar that was never present in his early albums. Celtic folksy atmosphere is also news - and a good one, certainly. The distorted guitar (is that right?) in the second song also shows Bert going places with his chords wuthout really moving too much. He repeat formulas that were succeded in early albums with a different approach. Almost minimalistic revolutionarie changes (is THAT right?). Even when Bert do a more basic base to the violin and cello solo, the instruments are married as I would never dream... I guess I have a new favourite Bert Janch album.

So... 4,5 stars rounded to 5? Yeah, I guess thats it.

Report this review (#1468651)
Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The listeners of classic British folk-rock remember guitarist Bert Jansch as a key member of PENTANGLE (which, by the way, I consider musically more competent than Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span). Jansch was a respected musician already before that band, and has expanded his solo output for decades. This well received instrumental album from 1978 was recently re- released by Earth Records. All ornithologists will be delighted by the colour drawings and Latin names of the birds that gave their names for the tracks. Als the album cover is new, with more linear graphics.

The title composition that fills an entire vinyl side (17:59) is the obvious main dish, magnum opus. It's a harmonic, beautiful, very naturally flowing Folk Prog piece. Notice that the whole album is percussionless. There really is no need for them, as the trio -- the composer Bert Jansch on guitars and piano, Martin Jenkins on mandocello (!?), violin and flute, and the mighty, unmistakable Danny Thompson on jazz-rooted bass -- use their Instruments to create dynamic, organic and absolutely pure & honest music that breathes like nature itself.

The five shorter tracks aren't bad either, if not as impressive. 'Lapwing' is a brief, piano centred tune in minor key. 'Bittern' (7:49) has the richest arrangement of these, highlighting a tasty combination of acoustic and electric guitars. 'Kingfisher' with its guitar tapping and violin has a "swampy" atmosphere, and the violin takes even bigger role on 'Osprey'. 'Kittiwake' (the drawing reveals that the bird belongs to the seagull family) ends the album in a light-hearted manner.

This was my first acquaintance to Bert Jansch's solo vast discography, but I'm interested to find some more, both instrumental and vocal music. Listen to this music with an open mind and you'll enjoy its natural beauty even if it at first may appear as slightly boring. But despite acknowledging the high musical quality, my real subjective rating is only 3˝ stars, since in the end there wasn't very much emotions involved in the listening.

Report this review (#1594523)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2016 | Review Permalink

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