It was also the first time that I heard Vic Juris perform live, I only knew that he was one of the legends of the New Jersey jazz scene and a professor at Mason Gross in New Brunswick. Knowing nothing about the venue, the group, or even much about Juris, I was prepared to be surprised.
Juris was there with an organ trio playing original compositions and arrangements for an upcoming recording date on the SteepleChase label. Unfortunately, SteepleChase records are notoriously difficult to track down in the United States, so Juris joked that this performance might be our only chance to hear his music.
Sadly, the internet has failed to elucidate the names of his sidemen, an organist and an especially fine drummer whose names I dont remember. If you know their names, let me know in an e-mail or leave a comment. Juris, though, was clearly the star of the show. His improvisations kept me listening closely, always throwing in musical moments whose flawless execution made my jaw drop, or whose subtle inflection resonated throughout my body.
Im a big fan of the organ trio sound, and really dug the way Juris stretched its boundaries over the course of his set. The songs ranged in style from wacky-distorted free jazz moments to straight-ahead swing to Soulive-esque rocking out. My personal favorite was a Vic Juris original written as a tribute to Eddie Harris, in 11/4 time. The drummer had big ears, and tastefully set up and followed along with the various musical twists and turns Juris had laid out for the evening.
All in all, a great set Im glad that I got out of the house to hear it. The venue was a little disappointing the fake plants and strange lighting reminded me of a Sharis but the music was certainly worthwhile. So keep an eye out for Vic Juris if hes coming your way, check him out. And if you figure out how to buy a record from SteepleChase, this one might be worth checking out!