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Speak Low

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Album Review

Johnny Varro has been a solid mainstream pianist since the 1940s, equally at home playing swing, cool, and bop, along with standards. In his eighties and still going strong, he assembled a quintet for these 2010 sessions featuring cornetist Warren Vaché, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, bassist Nicki Parrott, and drummer Chuck Riggs, all seasoned musicians who know a wide range of songs. While there aren't any surprises among the 14 songs selected for the session, several of them have fallen out of favor for no apparent reason. One of the nice things about hearing skilled musicians who know their music is that things seem to fall naturally into place; they can play around the melody without resorting to clichés, while they also share the spotlight without egos clashing. Varro's light touch at the piano is reminiscent of Teddy Wilson, though he eschews predictable improvised passages and keeps his solos short. Over half of the CD is devoted to standards. "All the Things You Are" is one of the most recorded songs, though Varro skips Dizzy Gillespie's famous added introduction, instead launching a swinging, lighthearted treatment featuring Allen's robust tenor and Vaché's sparkling cornet bookending his masterful piano solo, followed by Parrott's intricate feature. Varro tackles both Rodgers & Hart selections at a brisk clip, with terrific interplay in "Falling in Love with Love" and offering an unusually peppy "My Heart Stood Still." There are lovely interpretations of Brazilian favorites ("Once I Loved" and "Summer Samba") and a loping, happy "Sweethearts on Parade" (a throwback to the Eddie Condon era of Chicago swing). This is a thoroughly satisfying release.


Born: 11 January 1930 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the top swing-oriented pianists since the 1950s, Johnny Varro has long been a fixture in the trad jazz circuit even if the greater jazz world does not seem to know that he exists. He considers his influences to be Jess Stacy, Teddy Wilson, and Eddie Miller, as well as the jazz performances he witnessed as a child put on by Jack Crystal. Learning the piano while following Crystal and his friends, Varro's first professional job was with Bobby Hackett for a tour of the East Coast in 1953. In...
Full bio
Speak Low, Johnny Varro
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  • 9,99 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 12 July 2011

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