How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The Johnny Varro Swing Seven: Swingin’ on West 57th Street is a bright, upbeat septet recording that presents a band with distinctive soloists and a superb rhythm section. Johnny Varro on piano, Michael Moore on bass, and Joe Ascione on drums, are about as good a rhythm section as there exists in traditional jazz, precise and agile with the power to push the music to another level.
The lively arrangements are nearly all written by the leader/pianist Johnny Varro. The compositions include works by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Jess Stacy, and James P. Johnson. There’s a Chopin "Polanaise," and an outrageous Charlie Shavers arrangement of a Tchaikovsky piece entitled "Bounce of the Sugar Plum Fairies."
Highlights of the recording include Ellington’s "Black Butterfly," with enticing solo work by trumpeter Rande Sandke and pianist Varro. This band can swing, indeed it can, just check out the old Benny Goodman classic "Mission to Moscow." The section work is a joy throughout. The Hodges number "You Need To Rock" features the extraordinary team of Ascione and Moore, and the unison work of the horns and reeds. Throughout the disc Ken Peplowski, on clarinet and alto sax, is an inspired presence. Swingin’ on West 57th Street does exactly that what it promises. Good stuff.
Track Listing: As Long As I Live; Caught; On the Sunnyside of the Street; Old Fashioned Love; Mission to Moscow; Black Butterfly; You Need to Rock; Bounce of the Sugar Plum Fairies; It
Personnel: Johnny Varro, piano, leader, arranger; Randy Sandke, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Ken Peplowski, clarinet, alto sax; Scott Robinson, tenor sax; Michael Moore, bass; Joe Ascione, drums.