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Johnny Varro: The Two of Us

Something is missing here. You can’t tell by looking at the cover of Johnny Varro’s solo CD The Two of Us (Arbors), a cleverly designed montage of little Johnny, circa 1935, looking at his future self nearly 70 years later. Nor can you tell by looking at the back of the CD case, which lists 20 tracks that reveal Varro’s impeccable taste in tunes, from Jelly Roll to Michel Legrand and from Bach to the Beatles.

Even though Varro is willing to unearth neglected gems such as Oscar Levant’s “Blame It on My Youth” and Harold Arlen’s “A Sleeping Bee” (lyrics by Truman Capote, of all people), there’s something about the performances on the The Two of Us that is lacking. Even though Varro is one of the best traditional pianists on the scene-he possesses a firm left hand for striding and displays a keen harmonic sense-the missing element is a spark. The rhythm is too metronomic and the harmony is virtually never reharmonized. Loosen up and swing, Johnny, as you do on “Green Dolphin Street.”

Originally Published