- My Baby Just Cares for Me
- The Touch of Your Lips
- Menina Flor
- After I Say I'm Sorry (What Can I Say)
- It's Easy to Remember
- A Smooth One
- You're a Sweetheart
- Secret Love
- Out of Nowhere
- Love Locked Out
- I Love You
- Someday, You'll Be Sorry
- Blues on 57th Street
- The Way You Look Tonight
Johnny Varro - Piano
Ken Peplowski - Clarinet
Frank Tate - Bass
Joe Ascione - Drums
Johnny Varro came to fame with the Bobby Hackett Band in 1953 and,
like his leader of that time; he has always been a consistent performer.
His playing has been likened to that of Teddy Wilson, because he never
plays a note that is anything but 100% correct and he always seems
to have plenty of time, nothing is ever rushed.
Ken Peplowski arrived on the scene much later in the 1980's -
in fact, a little after Scott Hamilton had proved that many people
preferred swing to the mega-note assaults of John Coltrane. Along
with others such as Harry Allen he liked to play melodic jazz, but
unlike the other two he is also a master of the clarinet, which he
plays throughout this record.
Together they make beautiful music, ably supported by Frank Tate on
bass and Joe Ascione on drums. Varro is not only an excellent soloist,
but he is a master of supporting other soloists. Oscar Peterson was
also excellent in that role; it seems to be something only the best
pianists can do well.
The tune selection is excellent. My Baby Just Cares gets us
off to a swinging start and The Touch of Your Lips is so suited
to this kind of playing. Luiz Bonfa's Menina Flor is a
tune well worthy of more exposure!
A Smooth One is not treated à la Goodman, but is nevertheless
an excellent version. Bluesette is a great tune, but not the
easiest to play because it has four themes, but Peplowski and Varro
romp through it in a surefooted way and there is a fine bass solo
from Frank Tate. Varro solos on You're a Sweetheart and,
as you would expect by this far into the record, his interpretation
of the tune is always interesting and melodic. It is strongly influenced
by the stride piano style, but not overly so.
The full band returns to the scene for Secret Love which despite
its history as a Doris Day hit, makes a fine swinger. In any case
Doris was a class singer. This version really cooks: Peplowski plays
immaculate swinging clarinet, with technique to spare! Varro plays
some fine choruses in his usual neat but swinging way; Peplowski trades
eights with Ascione, and Varro with Tate, into a Basie-like ending.
Out of Nowhere is a tune I have always liked. Varro and Peplowski
take it slightly faster than the normal tempo, but do this interesting
tune great justice. Love Locked Out was Peplowski's suggestion
but Varro does not give any impression that the tune is new to him,
indeed he seems to relish the challenge. This is a Ray Noble ballad
that I was not familiar with, but it is one of his best.
I Love You, a Cole Porter Song has always been a jazzers'
favourite and that's how it sounds as Varro and Peplowski tear
into it. Louis Armstrong wrote Someday, You'll Be Sorry.
Varro claims it was taught to him by Bobby Hackett. Louis was a great
admirer of Hackett.
Blues on 57th was improvised by Varro and
Peplowski for the occasion and is a thing musicians like to do. Few
jazzmen tire of the blues, it is so fundamental to jazz. The record
finishes with a barnstorming The Way You Look Tonight.
Johnny Varro is heard in solo, duo, trio and quartet mode here and
never fails to impress and what a partner he has in Ken Peplowski,
terrific improvisation, lovely tone, magnificent technique, swings
like mad! This is a very impressive album.