Knowing that Kate Baker’s debut album was also guitarist Vic Juris’ last makes The Duo Sessions particularly poignant. Given the obvious chemistry the married couple shared on the bandstand, tunes like Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face” and Alec Wilder’s “Blackberry Winter” now take on profoundly deeper meaning here, turning them into heart-wrenching odes to a lost love. Other gems on this intimate recording produced by guitarist and longtime friend Dave Stryker include an energized version of Joni Mitchell’s “Black Crow” that has Juris strumming furiously on acoustic guitar, the waltz-time title track, which has Vic overdubbing tight unisons with Kate’s scatting lines, a minor key “Moonscape” (title track of Juris’ 1997 SteepleChase album, which his wife wrote new lyrics for) and a stirring take on Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” That Juris, who died of cancer on Dec. 31, 2019, was an all-world guitarist is a long-ago established fact. His 20-year tenure in Dave Liebman’s band, along with 18 albums as a leader for the SteepleChase, firmly cemented his position of the fretboard was undeniable. He holds back none of his vaunted facility here – playing rich fingerstyle chord melodies, intricate contrapuntal patterns and crisp arpeggios while picking lyrical single note lines and tapping out bell-like false harmonics – but it’s always in service of the tunes, his wife’s gorgeous voice and her clearly articulated lyrics. – Bill Milkowski
This recording is a masterpiece on so many levels..touching, reflective, lyrical and above all musical qualities. This is a recording with love and mutual respect ringing clear as a bell, infused with many deep musical and life qualities. Kate’s emotional vocabulary is striking, nuanced and bold. We all miss Vic….however this recording leaves testimony to the love that permeates the music. Rest in peace Victor
Return To Shore, the impossibly tender duo offering from vocalist Kate Baker and recently passed guitar icon Vic Juris has the gravitas of a musical love story 25 years in the making. We’re privy to an intimate conversation between consummate artists as they write a final chapter together - an ode to each other and to the music they both created and loved. Heartrending and transcendent.
Baker is a world class jazz singer, the pellucid, soulful voice and fluid phrasing enable her to personalize the music including her own poetic, searing lyrics, at once universal and intensely introspective.