From the 1960s to today, through an early stint in the iconic folk-rock band Pentangle to recent tours as Neil Young's special guest, Bert Jansch has distinguished himself as a master acoustic guitarist and songwriter. A unique, understated stylist, Jansch's influence transcends the British folk and blues music he emerged from and spans several generations of musicians.
He inspires testimonials like the following from Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, no slouch himself: "He completely re-invented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today ... You hear him in Nick Drake, Pete Townshend, Donovan, The Beatles, Jimmy Page and Neil Young. There are people playing guitar who don't even realise they've been influenced by him one step removed."
In recent years, Jansch's reputation seems ever-rising. In the early 2000s, he released well-received albums like Caledonia and Edge of a Dream, which featured the likes of Marr, Bernard Butler (Suede) and Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star). His 2006 album for the Drag City label, The Black Swan, helped connect him to a fresh young audience with contributions by members of Espers, Devendra Banhart and Beth Orton.
In 2007, Pentangle released a boxed set, The Time Has Come, followed by a reunion tour, and last year, Drag City reissued three of Jansch's mid-'70s albums -- L.A. Turnaround, Santa Barbara Honeymoon and A Rare Conundrum -- on CD and vinyl.
While Jansch has remained both prolific and active, Pittsburgh hasn't seen a performance by him in decades -- despite a couple of false alarms. (Shows scheduled at the Andy Warhol Museum in 2009 and 2010 were both cancelled due to illness.) Following a recent surgery, Jansch is headed to the U.S. for six December shows, including a Pittsburgh date, with special guests the Pegi Young Band.
The Pittsburgh concert, scheduled for Fri., Dec. 17, is presented by The Consortium and the First Unitarian Church. The opportunity to hear Jansch perform in such a setting is, to say the least, a rare one.
Bert Jansch with The Pegi Young Band 8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 17. First Unitarian Church, 605 Morewood Ave., Shadyside. $20 ($25 at the door). All ages. 412-361-2262
- Guitar on the edge of a dream: Bert Jansch