A native of Jersey City, N.J., Juris took up guitar at age 10 during the summer of 1963. Accordion, he notes, was a far more popular instrument than guitar at that time. All that would change the following year when Beatlemania washed up on the Jersey shore.
Juris got his first electric guitar on Christmas of 1964, and by the mid-’60s he was playing cover versions of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and the Temptations material in rock and R&B bands around his area. He discovered jazz in his late teens and subsequently studied with Philly jazz guitar legend Pat Martino.
In 1975, Juris made his recording debut on alto saxophonist Eric Kloss’ Bodies’ Warmth (Muse). He later gigged with fusioneer Barry Miles before hooking up with alto-sax burner Richie Cole, appearing on two hot, boppish offerings in 1977’s Alto Madness and 1978’s Keeper of the Flame (both on Muse). In the early ’80s, Juris immersed himself in acoustic guitar, performing duets with Larry Coryell and Biréli Lagrène, and by the late ’80s he joined bassist Gary Peacock’s group.
For the past 10 years Juris has been hitting the road hard with the Dave Liebman Group. “The band started out where we had keyboards,” says Juris, “and then Dave decided that he just wanted to go with the guitar. So my original role was kind of like a second horn, and the guitar is very cool for that. But now that’s completely changed to where I’m more of a colorist and chordal accompanist while also doing a bit of the second horn thing.”
The Liebman gig affords Juris quite a bit of freedom. “Dave is into doing a wide variety of stuff and he pretty much gives me the green light to do whatever I want,” says Juris. “He likes the fact that I can go through different styles in a given set and he also likes the effects for some of the electric Miles stuff that we do [culled from On the Corner, Get Up With It and Dark Magus, all recordings made during Liebman’s tenure with the tumultuous Miles Davis bands of the early ’70s]. So I carry a RAT pedal for a touch of distortion and I also use my Roland GR-50 guitar synth for colors and textures on some tunes. We also do some Jobim music in that band [from Liebman’s GMN.com recording, The Unknown Jobim], so he likes me to play the nylon-string acoustic on that stuff.”
Juris uses a nylon-string Takamine acoustic guitar for the Brazilian music, but his main ax since 1980 has been a thin hollow-body guitar made by New Jersey luthier Tom Doyle. He also plays a closed archtop (no f-holes) built by Phoenix luthier Glen McKerrihan.
Eagerly sought out by his fellow musicians, he has provided accompaniment for numerous recordings. In the mid eighties Vic teamed up with the phenomenally talented guitarist Bireli LaGrene during an engagement at Fat Tuesday’s, a New York City jazz club. Vic and LaGrene, a young gypsy whose spirited style recalls that of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt, began playing together regularly. Their popular performances were charged with the intensity of two masters challenging each other to new heights.
One thing led to another. Vic and LaGrene toured Europe together. They recorded Bireli LaGrene Live, featuring Vic Juris for the German label Jazzpoint. It was during this time that Vic started spending a lot of time on the continent. He toured with alto saxophonist Richie Cole; pianist and composer Michel Legrand and then again as part of a guitar trio with Bireli LaGrene and Englishman John Etheridge.
Vic found a warm welcome in Europe, where audiences are somewhat more sophisticated in their appreciation of jazz. European promoters were quick to book him, confident that he would draw a crowd. While spending much of his time in Europe, Vic nevertheless managed to keep busy back in the states. He often teamed up with guitarist Larry Coryell playing festivals and Jazz Clubs throughout the country. He also traveled with Gary Peacock in duet throughout the European circuit.
Vic has been a member of the David Liebman group since 1991. This band has recorded 10 CDs, traveled throughout Europe, Japan, Israel, and the United States throughout the 1990s and is still going strong till this day. He was a member of the Gary Peacock Quartet and musical director of the Charles Mingus Guitar Quintet. Vic performed at George Wein’s J.V.C. Festival, in duets with John Abercrombie and Russell Malone. He performs with Jeremy Steig, James Moody, Charlie Mariano to name a few.
As a leader Vic Juris has performed in the U.S. and in European venues. His own quartet includes saxophonist Dick Oatts. Vic’s band has recorded records on Steeple Chase, “Night Tripper”, “Pastels” 1997, “Moonscape” 1998, “Remembering Eric Dolphy” 2000. His CD “Songbook” hit top 10 pics in 2000. Vic has also recorded on Double Time Records “Music of Alec Wilder.” Vic’s 2004 release of “Blue Horizon” listed him as top pics for the year 2004.