Jazz guitarist Vic Juris has covered an impressive range of territory, musically as well as geographically. Inspired by rock and roll legend Chuck Berry, the Jersey City native first picked up a guitar at the age of ten. With no musicians in the family, he taught himself to play and was soon appearing with rock and R&B bands throughout the tri-state area. But the young rocker’s taste soon changed. In his late teens Vic discovered jazz and classical music. He was hooked.
From there it was on to a career with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Phil Woods, Jimmy Smith, Sarah Vaughan, Chico Hamilton, Dave Liebman, Richie Cole, Mel Tormé, Eddie Jefferson and Nancy Wilson. From the beginning Vic’s voracious appetite for new musical experiences led him to explore any and every jazz artist he could hope to learn from. He drew on other idioms as well: blues, swing, bebop. In a less sensitive and technically accomplished musician this expansive vocabulary might descend into cacophony. But Vic’s highly developed sense of composition, his skill at fusing traditional jazz guitar with other forms of expression, has made him an eloquent and popular conversationalist.
Eagerly sought out by his fellow musicians, he has provided accompaniment for numerous recordings. In the mid-eighties Vic teamed up with the phenomenally talented guitarist Biréli Lagrène during an engagement at Fat Tuesday’s, a New York City jazz club. Vic and Lagrène, a young gypsy whose spirited style recalls that of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt, began playing together regularly. Their popular performances were charged with the intensity of two masters challenging each other to new heights. One thing led to another. Vic and Lagrène toured Europe together. They recorded Biréli Lagrène Live, featuring Vic Juris for the German label Jazzpoint.
It was during this time that Vic started spending a lot of time on the continent. He toured with alto saxophonist Richie Cole; pianist and composer Michel Legrand and then again as part of a guitar trio with Biréli Lagrène and Englishman John Etheridge. Vic found a warm welcome in Europe, where audiences are somewhat more sophisticated in their appreciation of jazz. European promoters were quick to book him, confident that he would draw a crowd.
While spending much of his time in Europe, Vic nevertheless managed to keep busy back in the states. He often teamed up with guitarist Larry Coryell playing festivals and Jazz Clubs throughout the country. He also traveled with Gary Peacock in duet throughout the European circuit. Vic has been a member of the David Liebman group since 1991. This band has recorded 10 CDs, traveled throughout Europe, Japan, Israel, and the United States throughout the 1990s. He was a member of the Gary Peacock Quartet and musical director of the Charles Mingus Guitar Quintet. Vic performed at George Wein’s J.V.C. Festival, in duets with John Abercrombie and Russell Malone. He also performed with Jeremy Steig, James Moody and Charlie Mariano to name a few others.
Vic’s wife Kate Baker has asked that the following details about his wake and funeral be conveyed so those who wish to pay their respects may do so.
The Wake: Friday Jan 3rd: 3pm-7pm at Preston Funeral Home. 153 South Orange Ave, South Orange NJ 07079- 973-762-1133 (Walking distance from the South Orange NJ Transit train station)
The Funeral: Saturday Jan 4th: noon at Central Presbyterian Church. 46 Park St, Montclair NJ 07042 -973-744-5340
In lieu of flowers please consider contributing to a fully funded Jazz Guitar Scholarship at the New School in Vic’s name. Details to follow.
Biography Source: Marc Mommas