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Vic Juris 1953 – 2019

Today I would like to remember the American guitarist Vic Juris who passed away on December 31, 2019 because of complications from metastatic liver cancer. He was diagnosed with liver cancer around six months ago after noticing an exhaustion that plagued him during and after gigs.

Vic was perhaps best known for being a member of the David Liebman group. He worked as a studio musician, educator (he wrote some interesting books on polychords and intervallic structures) and he released several albums as a leader.

Vic was not so well known to the public like John Scofield or Pat Metheny but people who knew him had they highest respect about his musicality, his phrasing and his technique.

I was lucky to met Vic in 2018 where he was the guitar teacher at the Langnau Jazz Workshop which I attended. And yes, I took the chance to play one song with him once in a guitar class. I had some records from him and I was quite excited to met him in person and to be able to attend his class.

The lessons were very entertaining because Vic not only explained his approach to certain improvisation techniques, he also told us a lot of funny stories from his huge musical experience and he deeply impressed us with his playing. He was very generous to all of sharing as much as possible, and his wife Kate had to go every now and then to the copying machine for the additional material he wanted to distribute.

Drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Jay Anderson were in Langnau as workshop teachers and Vic Juris released his last two albums with this two great musicians. Vic’s playing his full of creative ideas but you can hear that he plays in “his” style, he has some signature licks and elements from where you can identify him.

The songs on the albums are a combination of own material and Jazz standards so you can also get an idea how he interprets jazz classics.

2018-Album “Eye Contact”:

2019-Album “Two Guitars”:

Dave Stryker: Eight Track Christmas

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This years’ Christmas album comes from Dave Stryker and his Eight Track band featuring:

  • Dave Stryker – guitar
  • Stefon Harris - vibraphone
  • Jared Gold – organ
  • McClenty Hunter – drums

The name of the band and the music they like to play comes from the time when an 8-Track player was a popular device. The group has released three very successful albums with songs from the 60′s and 70′s and tie in on the tradition of producing an album for the holiday season.

This album is not the classical Christmas CD with a lot of emotions, instead it is the cool buddy for the hectic season. An excellent organ trio plus an incredible vibraphone player guarantee the perfect groove.

The album starts with “This Christmas” from Donny Hathaway, quite cool and relaxed with a little bit of jingle bells and a bluesy Dave Stryker, perfectly played. The sound of this band is really exceptional and the vibraphone adds the unique note to the organ trio.

The traditional “What Child Is This?” comes next. This tune is arranged with a pushing 6/8 meter. Laurels are here for McClenty Hunter on drums who gives this song the special touch.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, another traditional is the next song, arranged with a heavy groove and one more time the hint to listen to the drummer precisely.

The album continues with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” one of my favorite Christmas tunes. The end of the melody is played in unison by guitar (in octaves) and vibraphone which sounds really warm and soft but very jazzy.

“Soulful Frosty” is another highlight of the album, it is a melange of the two songs “Soulful Strut” and “Frosty The Snowman” very soulful indeed and very happy with the Frosty part where the compulsory jingle bells are added.

The Charlie Brown song “Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Guaraldi, a beautiful ballad comes next. Guitar and vibraphone trade the melody, very soft and easy which gives this nice melody the space it needs to unfold in full. Very tasty background by drums and organ.

An up-tempo “Sleigh Ride” shows the band in jam-style with solos from all musicians.

“Blue Christmas” is the next song and it comes as an old-fashioned 12/8 groove with bluesy solos. My highlight of this song is the organ solo which ends in full gear pulling out all stops plus the Leslie speaker. Killer sound.

“We Three Kings” is another highlight of this album. This song sounds like a modal jazz tune with a breathtaking guitar solo.

The album ends with “O Tannenbaum” (with Steve Nelson on vibraphone).  This song was released before and shows a hard swinging band enjoying to play and to improvise over this famous traditional.

‘Eight Track Christmas’ is my choice for this holiday season, it is quite different from what you hear and what is recorded for this occasion, but since it is so cool relaxed and swinging Jazz music it shows much better the “true” spirit of Christmas then any other new album I have heard this year.

Enjoy, relax and have an eggnog on Dave and his fabulous Eight Track band.

More information about Dave Stryker, his projects and tour dates are found on his website:
https://www.davestryker.com

And finally a playlist of this album on Spotify: