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Vic Juris Quartet: Moonscape

Recorded in Denmark in 1996, this album showcases the guitarist’s working quartet: woodwind player Dick Oatts, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. And while Juris persists in using a dated-sounding, processed tone, it becomes a minor annoyance in light of his seamless playing, the intelligent arrangements and compositions (mostly originals) and the cohesiveness of the ensemble.

The group’s tightness is evidenced by “Critters,” a bit quirky uptempo original that grooves solidly, providing a nice vehicle for Juris’ eminently fluid lines and refined melodicism. On “You Stepped Out,” guitar and sax double the head with breathless precision; later, each gets in a fine, swinging contribution. The title track reflects an additive approach that commences with solo acoustic guitar, transforms into a duet with flute, and is finally augmented by bass and drums-a particularly effective device in the context of the tune’s soft and sensitive mood. And Juris’ unpredictable lyricism and the effortless way he punctuates his line with chords during Keith Jarrett’s “So Tender,” a restrained bossa, raises the inevitable question of why he’s so underrated and unacknowledged. Beautiful playing throughout.

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