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Live at the Smithsonian Jazz Café (DVD) by Vic Juris and Corey Christiansen

This is a wonderful DVD full of great music and featuring the prodigious talents of Vic Juris and Corey Christiansen in an intimate setting of two guitars with bass and drums.

Vic Juris, born in 1953, is a self-taught veteran bop guitarist. His credits include a long association with saxophonist Richie Cole that dates back on record the 1976 release, New York Afternoon: Alto Madness. Juris has also recorded with Mel Tormé, Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz, and James Moody just to name a few.

Christiansen grew up under the tutelage of his guitarist father Mike Christiansen, a Mel Bay author and professor of music at Utah State University. He got his master’s degree in jazz performance with the instruction of jazz guitar legend Jack Petersen, and even took over for Petersen as adjunct guitar instructor at the University of South Florida when Petersen retired. Christiansen eventually left USF to join the staff at Mel Bay Publications as their guitar editor, where he has over forty publication credits to his name.

So in a sense we have here a duet of two unlikely soul-mates: a self-taught guy with stellar street creds (Juris) and another with a history of professional-grade instruction in the art of jazz guitar (Christiansen). They work together beautifully, one comping while the other solos, then switching roles instantly and fluidly. If you weren’t watching this on DVD but listening only to the music, you might have trouble knowing when those transfers occur.

Juris and Christiansen work their way through a combination of their own compositions plus standards like "All The Things You Are," "Stella by Starlight," and Wayne Shorter’s "Black Nile." The opener, "Roads," is a Christiansen piece that links together a modal head with a lightly swinging bridge which the band navigates well. Both Juris and Christiansen demonstrate their chops early with blazing riffs and well-placed chord blocks on the comping side. "All The Things You Are" is in ultra-mellow ballad form here. On "Floater" and "Black Nile" Juris and Christiansen move into trio format, respectively. "Floater" teeters on free jazz. Juris adds some effects on his guitar and proves his mettle by what he chooses not to play; the drum kit work by Tim Horner is especially nice on this one. On "Black Nile" Christiansen lets it swing. Drums and bass take a breather on "Stella by Starlight" to let the two guitarists keep time and changes on their own; the result is a very lovely dance.

The video side of the DVD is well done, and would be especially valuable for the jazz guitarist to see the technique of both of these masters. There are many nice close-ups of the hand work and side-by-side edits with the guitarists in separate frames so you can see, not just hear, how they are reacting to each other. And there is a bonus interview with Juris and Christiansen who discuss the music and playing together, offering some nice insight into what's going on in their heads while their hands are making the music.

Overall the package is excellent, especially for jazz guitarists of course, but also enjoyable for any jazz fan who loves to watch jazz musicians do what they do.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Vic Juris and Corey Christiansen
  • CD Title: Live at the Smithsonian Jazz Café (DVD)
  • Genre: Jazz DVD / Video
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Mel Bay Records
  • Tracks: Roads, Alone Together, Awakening, All The Things You Are, Floater, Black Nile, Stella by Starlight, Kaiya’s Dance, Sweet 16, For Shirley, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise
  • Musicians: Vic Juris (guitar), Corey Christiansen (guitar), Tim Horner (drums), Bill Moring (bass)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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