Live at the Smithsonian Jazz Café
Washington, D.C. has long been a guitar town, a hub for players as diverse as Roy Clark, Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and Charlie Byrd. So it’s only fitting that the Smithsonian Jazz Café, a not-so-cozy space located in the National Museum of Natural History, is always ready to welcome plectrists, swing-era legends and contemporary artists alike.
What we have here is a prime example of the Café’s innovative programming, a collaboration in which Vic Juris and Corey Christiansen display a conversational rapport in duo and ensemble settings. Bassist Bill Moring and drummer Tim Horner provide plenty of support—the unobtrusive kind—while the guitarists take turns creating pianistic backdrops for each other. Though the mood is casual, the arrangements are often intricately devised, whether marked by woven lines or beautifully integrated solos and accompaniments. A guitar-duo arrangement of “Alone Together” boasts both qualities, and there’s no shortage of similar delights as the diverse program unfolds with performances of Christiansen’s harmonically buoyant “Awakening,” Juris’ soulful musing “For Shirley” and several imaginatively tweaked standards, including “All the Things You Are,” “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” and “Stella by Starlight.” Wayne Shorter (“Back Nile”) and Carla Bley (“Floater”) are also represented. For the benefit of viewers, and especially players, split-screen video zeroes in on the action.
The bonus section, which includes an interview with the players hosted by Horner, offers tips and insights. When the discussion turns to soloing, Juris stresses why it’s necessary to develop the discipline to constantly reassess where you are at and where you are going. And both guitarists agree that the art of duo playing is inseparable from the art of listening, a truth underscored by the remarkable performances here.