The amazing jazz guitarist Vic Juris passed away this morning at the age of 66.
In 2014, Vic Juris was a guest on SportsJam with Doug Doyle where he talked about his love of boxing. Juris started following the sport when Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) fought Sonny Liston in 1964.
"Muhammad Ali, at the time Cassius Clay, was so charasmatic and every little kid on the block wanted to see him lose to Sonny Liston. There was so much hype for this fight. It was all people were talking about, through little transister radios and being blasted out of storefronts so my dad and I listened to the radio to one of the major upsets of all-time. That just kind of drew me into boxing. Muhammad Ali was such a great self-promoter that you just couldn't help but watch one of this title defenses. That got me interested into some of the other fighters at the time."
Juris was a big fan of the New York Knicks, especially when Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson were part of a championship team. He was also in attendance when the New Jersey Devils raised one of their Stanley Cups.
In connecting his playing and sports, Juris talked about the "team" concept on stage.
"I've been very lucky, more as a sideman than a leader. I've played with a who's who of band leaders in jazz and it's been very rewarding and taught me a lot about leading my own groups. That's the whole concept of playing in a group is the team effort. In jazz, the key word is really 'listening'. You're not passing a ball or anything, but in a way you are. You have to listen to what, as a chord instrument, what the bass and drums are doing as well as say the vocalist or a horn player. Being the chord instrument you're kind of like the team captain in a way. You kind of determine the harmony and the direction of the rhythm section."
Juris, who was born in Jersey City and raised in Parsippany, began learning guitar at the age of 10. He studied at the home of his teacher Ed Berg and got interested in jazz listening to Berg's records of guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Jim Hall and others.
Juris taught at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Lehigh University and Rutgers University and wrote many instructional books for guitar.
Vic Juris was a guest when SportsJam was part of the regular lineup on WBGO and later become one of the biggest supporters of the podcast. He was a super friend to all of us here at WBGO and will be missed. Our hearts go out to his entire family.
Click above to hear the May 2014 episode of SportsJam with Doug Doyle featuring Vic Juris.