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Johnny Varro: Say Yes

Johnny Varro, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated pianists currently active. The 19 performances in this sparkling collection handsomely illustrate his taste, clarity of thought, attractive touch and easy swing. His notes explain his very personal choice of number-“Some old favorites and a few that are rarely played anywhere.” He is generous in crediting past associates and other pianists, such as Johnny Guarneri, Ralph Sutton, Joe Sutton, and The Lion. His buoyant version of “Echoes of Spring” would surely have delighted its composer. Besides John Lewis’s “Django,” there are Django’s “Nuages,” Duke’s “All Too Soon,” Stuff Smith’s “It’s Wonderful,” Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” and what he describes as “the other Fats Waller Waltz,” the seldom-played “Say Yes.” All are played with consistent attention to the material’s melodic and rhythmic potential. There is no eccentricity for eccentricity’s sake, just a steady flow of warm, heartening music, all delivered with the unfailing beat that makes Varro a good accompanist, too. The recording and a nine-foot Baldwin concert grand deserve high commendation.

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