Vic Juris : “A Second Look” – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

An inspiring player since the early 70’s, Vic Juris continues to inspire as he pushes the limits of his playing, going beyond all expectations on his latest Mel Bay Records label release A Second Look. An artistically modern and fresh sounding CD, A Second Look combines an intense set of originals and standards that features Juris’ creative and introspective approach to crafting thoughtful improvisation and inventive reharmonization as he explores the jazz lexicon through the use of both traditional and modern improvisational fare.

Backed by such supportive musicians as bassist Jay Anderson, a monster player in his own right, and Tim Horner, a superlative drummer who commands both subtle finesse and thunderous force from his skins, Juris pulls out all the stops as he plays with an intensity and skill that places him in the top tier of Jazz Guitar players.

Case in point is the Keith Jarrett tune “Shades of Jazz”. Juris and his musical cohorts waste no time turning this tune inside out as they play both inside and outside the changes with Anderson and Horner stretching out a bit on this one while Juris just tears the tune up with some very enviable soloing.

Wonderful playing abounds on this CD. From the title track to the last tune, “Indian Summer”, Juris plays with extraordinary confidence, maturity, and taste as he coaxes long flowing lines through each of the ten tunes on this session. And while there is plenty of jaw-dropping technique, there is also a vulnerable sensitivity which can be heard on the tunes “Barney K.” a Juris original, Bill Evans’s “Very Early” and the heartfelt Juris composition “Little Brian”.

Barney K.” is especially poetic with a lyrical nylon string melody that was composed at a time when jazz guitar legend Barney Kessel was ill. As Juris mentions in his liner notes to the tune: “I was trying to send out some positive energy…long live his spirit and incredible will”. There’s some really beautiful playing on this tune from both Juris and Anderson, who takes a short but none-the-less enchanting solo.

The nylon string is also featured on the surprisingly near total reharmonization of the standard “All the Things You Are”, where Juris equates the reharmonization as possibly coming from his listening to the “…rock band “Radiohead’”. The listener can make up their own mind on this tune, but wherever it came from it is stunningly crafted and Juris’ Richard DiCarlo nylon string sounds just wonderful.

Adding to the beauty of this tune is master reedsman David Liebman, who guests on a few tunes, including the title track, and sounds, as always, truly captivating. The combination of Juris and Liebman is killer, especially on the Juris original “Dizzy, Trane, and You” which is definitely a high point on this CD as they share the melody and then blow to their heart’s content.

Actually, there are quite a few high points on this CD. From the solo intro to Bill Evans’ “Very Early” which flows into a “duo” with himself, to the almost Metheny-ish Juris penned “Table For One” with guest vocalist Kate Baker singing the melody along with Juris’s guitar. It is this haunting quality that reminds me of Metheny. Not to mention the subtle delay on Juris’ warm sounding Bill Comins electric. But don’t be fooled, the music is definitely Vic Juris and not an imitation of anyone else. It’s no wonder that guys like Jimmy Bruno, John Abercrombie and Peter Bernstein are in awe of Juris’ as a musician prompting Bernstein to state that “A Second Look” is a “beautiful record” and that “Vic Juris is one of the best players on the modern scene.” You can’t get higher praise than that.

Added to all the great music on this CD is an enhanced disk that you can play in your CD-Rom that features an interview, biography, discography, and photos from the session.

If you are a fan of great Jazz Guitar or just great music in general, Vic Juris’ “A Second Look” is definitely a must for your music library. Don’t give it a second thought.

RIP Vic (1953-2019)

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