Jazz guitarist Vic Juris dies following cancer diagnosis

Jazz guitarist Vic Juris, best known for his long-running role in David Liebman’s band, has died. He was 66.

Six months before his death, Juris was diagnosed with metastatic liver cancer after he started experiencing unusual fatigue while touring. Friends had launched an online fundraising campaign to help cover the cost of his treatment.

“I am sorry to report that Vic Juris passed away this morning,” his friend and fellow guitarist Dave Stryker wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday. “Vic will live on through his music, as a beautiful person and through his many students.”

Since the mid-1970s, the New Jersey-based musician had recorded and released almost two dozen albums as a leader, and many more as a sideman for acts including Richie Cole, Mel Tormé, Steve LaSpina, Gary Peacock, Barry Miles, Arthur Lipner and Don Patterson.

In the ’90s, Juris began a decades-long creative journey with saxophonist David Liebman, recording 18 albums as a member of the NEA lifetime achievement award winner’s band.

“There was no one more real then Vic both as a person and musician,” Liebman wrote on his Facebook page. “His sense of humor, honesty, sweet nature and musical skills were legendary. Vic was a ‘nice guy’ in the true sense of the cliché, always ready to give a helping hand … He was the hardest worker I have known, bringing a tape recorder to rehearsals, imploring me to play a voicing a few more times on the piano to be sure he understood it. Then taking it home to practice — dedication beyond the norm.”

Juris was also an educator who taught at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Lehigh University, and Rutgers University.

He authored two instructional books for guitarists: Inside/Outside and Modern Chords.

“Vic Juris’s humility kept him from greater notoriety, an unsung hero in jazz,” said Brad Barker, music director and on-air host at JAZZ.FM91. “With no interest in the trappings of fame, Vic would just show up and play any style at the highest level possible.”

Pat Metheny once offered high praise for Juris, calling him “a total monster ever since we both hit the scene at around the same time in the ’70s, playing great no matter what the setting. But he has taken the knowledge gained from a long stay in Dave Liebman’s band to form a really new way of thinking about melody and harmony on the guitar. His playing is always musical and his pure mastery of the instrument is something to behold.”

WBGO reports that two new Juris albums will be released in the spring. One will feature Jay Anderson on bass, Gary Versace on keyboards and John Riley on drums. The other is a duets album with his wife, jazz singer Kate Baker.