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The Johnny Varro Swing 7: Ring Dem Bells

In the ecclesiastics of swing, the Johnny Varro Swing 7 would be in the liberal camp. Pianist Varro, irrespective of his associations with neo-traditionalists, is no atavist trying to recreate the swing of yesteryear via musical Xeroxing; he’s more interested in invoking its spirit. So his charts here, while relying on tried-and-true strategies from the swing era-riffs, breaks, shout choruses, kickers-don’t hue close to earlier sources, even when he explicitly references earlier models. The charts and tempos are indubitably his own, with ballads often revved up and swingers like “Corner Pocket” pushed up a notch.

Varro’s liberality shows in his adventurous repertoire selections as well as his inventive charts. Franz Lehar’s “Yours Is My Heart Alone,” Rudolph Friml’s “Only a Rose” and even Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Suddenly It’s Spring,” are unusual jazz fodder, all turned into crisp, swinging vehicles. “You Stepped Out of a Dream” dares to dream a new, contrafact melody redolent of ’50s cool, while “Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble” is a grand tour of jazz from the two-beat ’20s to the suave ’40s.

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