After Pentangle split in 1973, Bert Jansch returned to his prolific solo career but missed playing in a group context. The Bert Jansch Conundrum came into existence as the 1970s waned. Jansch recorded a solo album called A Rare Conundrum in 1977, with mandolinist Rod Clements and fiddler Mike Piggott as supporting players. When Piggott was unable to go out on a Scandinavian tour, Martin Jerkins hired on to play violin on the dates. They hit it off and Nigel Portman-Smith came aboard to play bass. They toured Europe and America. Bert recalled: “I got to know Martin in that period between the original Pentangle splitting up and the beginning of the eighties. I knew him pretty well and we did a lot of gigs together. At one point we were playing with Rod Clements, who used to be in Lindisfarne and Pick Withers on drums - I seem to remember Mike Piggott was involved as well; I’ve been in so many different line-ups I just can’t honestly remember!”
The first part of this DVD collection presents Bert Jansch Conundrum in concert, recorded in Athens, Ohio. This is followed by three tunes by Bert and Martin recorded in 1978 in Stockholm, Sweden. The DVD concludes with a documentary that Bert recorded in 1985 that combines interviews, solo concert performances and rehearsals.
Titles include: Bert Jansch Conundrum In Concert, 1980 Poor Mouth, Daybreak, Blues Run The Game, Bittern, Ask Your Daddy, Running From Home, Let Me Sing, Blackwaterside, Medley of Jigs & Reels, Nightfall, Sovay and Alimony
Bonus Tracks: Bert Jansch & Martin Jenkins, 1978 Come Back Baby, One For Jo and Cuckoo; Bert Jansch Documentary, 1985 A Man and His Songs
Running Time: 103 minutes
Review: Neil Young has touted Bert Jansch as the “Jimi Hendrix of acoustic guitar" for four decades, and Jimmy Page has name - checked Jansch so often you'd think they are players in one of those buddy movie "bro-mances," yet Jansch is at best an obscure figure known best to guitar cognoscenti, despite having recorded dozens of albums on his own as well as with Pentangle.
That Jansch has remained under appreciated all these years seems unforgivable and has to be hard on the man's psyche. Yet he has never stopped making strong music on stage and in the recording studio, most recently on The Black Swan with Beth Orton and Devendra Banhar among the supporting cast. Perhaps his Celtic reserve - he's apparently never sought guitar hero trappings - has something to do with his lack of wide recognition.
This 103-minute Jansch performance DVD comes from a post-Pentangle time in 1979-1980 when he put together a short-lived group called Conundrum. Most of the footage dates from a college show in Athens, Ohio, when he and band mates Martin Jenkins and Nigel Portman - Smith were on their single American tour. Bonus features also catch them in Sweden, as well as playing in a rehearsal hall and down at their favorite local pub.
For the college gig, the trio runs through a dozen song set, with Jansch often ceding solo space to Jenkins on mandocello and fiddle and at one point bassist Portman - Smith. They open the set with "Poor Mouth," and by the fourth song, an instrumental titled "Bittern," they are as electric as acoustic players can be short of plugging into a wall socket.
Songs include a fine rendering of "Blues Run the Game," a funny run-through of "Alimony" (dedicated to Mick Jagger whose marriage to Bianca had just cratered), a throbbing "Come Back Baby" and an eerie "Cuckoo," along with bonus versions of "Looking for a Home" and the old blues standard "Candy Man." Camera work is tight and the lighting bright for those looking to cop technique.
Also from the same period, Jansch's one studio album with Conundrum, Thirteen Down, has just been reissued on Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop label. Former Pentangle vocalist Jacqui McShee is among the guests, and it too is a gem. – Bill Wasserzieher/Ugly Things