Vic Juris: Omega is the Alpha (2010)

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Vic Juris: Omega is the Alpha
With so much attention paid to established guitar stars like Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
, John Scofield
John Scofield
John Scofield
b.1951
guitar
and Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
b.1951
guitar
, and the next generation of six-string innovators like Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
b.1970
guitar
, Adam Rogers
Adam Rogers
Adam Rogers

guitar
and Ben Monder
Ben Monder
Ben Monder
b.1962
guitar
, it's no surprise that there are some incredible jewels hiding in plain sight. One such gem is Vic Juris, a guitarist who, if technical aptitude, musical breadth and a vivid, unfettered imagination were the determining factors, would be a household—well, jazz household—name as well. His work, for two decades, with Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
's group, has been beyond exemplary; as much a defining voice as that of the veteran saxophonist himself on albums including the recent Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Jazzwerkstatt, 2010) and 1995 archival find, Live at MCG (MCG Jazz, 2009). His own records—ranging from the layered and stylistically far-reaching Blue Horizon (Zoho, 2004) to the more direct and straight-ahead A Second Look (Mel Bay, 2005)—capably support claims that Vic Juris is the best guitarist that far too few have heard.

Like Second Look, Omega is the Alpha is a blowing record, but stretches farther, with a set of Juris originals, a couple standards, and—rescuing hard-edged free-jazzer Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
's title track from obscurity—all the proof needed of Juris' relentless out-of-the-box thinking. Juris reinvents Ayler's tune with an opening swell of delay and volume pedal-driven chords, an ethereal introduction that leads to a gentle, rubato theme more redolent of Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
s Midwest than Ayler's leftist extremes. Bassist Jay Anderson
Jay Anderson
Jay Anderson
b.1955
bass, acoustic
and drummer Adam Nussbaum
Adam Nussbaum
Adam Nussbaum
b.1955
drums
are equal partners, as Juris' loops create an atmospheric backdrop for the guitarist's tart lines, moving in, out and around the key-driven, but no-changes/no-time improv.

If there's a bigger name with whom Juris can be compared, it's John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
b.1944
guitar
—not in any stylistic or textural fashion, but in Juris' ability to assert a voice without relying on signature phrases or any kind of predictability. Instead, it always seems fresh, in-the-moment and connected to the broadest possible tradition, whether it's his relaxed, harmonically sophisticated steel-string acoustic guitar work on his waltz-time ballad, "Subway," or the more propulsive yet somehow still unhurried "Folksong," where the guitarist's ability to self-accompany, even at brighter tempos and in the midst of higher velocity melodies, is virtually unparalleled. An eternal guitar student, Juris' technical acumen—ranging from chiming, Lenny Breau
Lenny Breau
Lenny Breau
1941 - 1984
guitar
-like harmonics to rapid-fire, palm-muted runs—never runs the risk of being an end in itself. Instead, as he demonstrates an equally powerful command over effects—pulling a harmonizer in at just the right moments during his solo to "Folksong"—Juris' focus is always the music, soloing with remarkable compositional focus and vivid construction.

That Juris is working in an open-ended trio setting with two players of like-minded intent and similarly undervalued status, only makes Omega is the Alpha an even more exceptional album. Representing Juris, Anderson and Nussbaum at their freewheeling best, it's also a sure bet as one of this year's finest guitar sets.

Track Listing: Folksong; Hallucinations; For Shirley; Omega is the Alpha; Subway; Romulan Ale; Lonely Woman; Sweet Sixteen; Rosario; Alone Together.

Personnel: Vic Juris: guitar; Jay Anderson: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.

Record Label: SteepleChase Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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