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Vic Juris: Two Guitars (SteepleChase)

A review of Juris' latest album featuring the guitarist playing hollowbody electric and steel-string acoustic guitars

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Vic Juris, Two Guitars
The cover of Two Guitars by Vic Juris

The title of Vic Juris’ latest release references one of the album’s chief strengths. Largely devoted to original, recently minted tunes, it’s brimming with tonal contrasts generated by hollowbody electric and steel-string acoustic guitars (both played by Juris, but not simultaneously). When you consider the colorful sonic spectrum, the fresh themes, and the alert, subtle, sometimes propulsive support provided by bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum, it’s no shocker that Juris regards Two Guitars as one of his finest recordings—and the best illustration of how the trio currently sounds live.

Certainly, fans of the late John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell will want to give a listen, as album highlights include striking Juris-penned tributes to them. A close friend of both guitarists and an occasional collaborator too, Juris imbues “To John” and “Chant for Larry” with a soulful air and abiding affection. Both of these electric performances conjure a distinctly evocative mood, thanks in part to the rhythm section’s customary finesse.

Elsewhere in the session, reminders of Juris’ fascination with intriguing harmonic schemes surface. For starters, there’s “Cerise,” a tricky, brush-stroked theme deftly enhanced by Anderson’s sonorous interlude and the guitarist’s spiraling flights. In more straightforward electric settings, Juris’ engaging flair for offsetting single-note runs with resonant chords often comes into play, adding texture and drive to the tight arrangements. An imaginative take of Wayne Shorter’s “E.S.P.” moves from arpeggiated lines to swift angular swing; the shimmering acoustic waltz “In Three for Two” elegantly pairs Juris and Anderson. And yet another pleasure: hearing Juris, again on acoustic, join his session mates in orchestrating a pop hit as simple (on first listen) as Lennon and McCartney’s “Julia” without ever obscuring its tuneful allure.

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Mike Joyce

A former editor of JazzTimes, Mike Joyce has written extensively on jazz, blues, country, and pop music for The Washington Post, Maryland and Washington, D.C. public television stations, and other outlets.