Though they're separated by nearly 30 years in age, veteran pianist Johnny Varro and clarinetist Ken Peplowski are a perfectly matched pair. Varro, born in Brooklyn in 1930, has been a leading proponent of small-group swing since the '50s, appearing over his long career with the likes of Pee Wee Russell, Buck Clayton and Eddie Condon. Nearing 80, he remains active on the festival and club circuit, still playing in the elegant, Teddy Wilson-inspired style that's been his hallmark for decades. The 50 year-old Peplowski, meanwhile, is one of his generation's top swing revivalists, helping keep that tradition alive with his dynamic clarinet (and tenor sax) performances.
Two Legends of Jazz brings the two swing stalwarts together for the first time (along with the like-minded rhythm section of Frank Tate on bass and Joe Ascione on drums) for a thoroughly enjoyable set of well-chosen standards. Peplowski showcases his gorgeous, almost saxophone-like tone on clarinet on "The Touch of Your Lips" and the bossa nova number "Menina Flor." Varro is especially effective on a duet version of "It's Easy to Remember" and a solo take on "You're a Sweetheart," both of which highlight his light touch and considerable stride piano skills. While this is mostly a relaxed, low-key affair, the full quartet swings hard on a handful of selections, notably "Secret Love" and "Out of Nowhere."
If swing is your thing, Varro and Peplowski are about as good as it gets.
Track Listing: 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; Bluesette; You're a Sweetheart; Secret Love; Out of Nowhere; Love Locked Out; I Love You; Someday You
Personnel: Johnny Varro: piano; Ken Peplowski: clarinet; Frank Tate: bass; Joe Ascione: drums.
I grew up listening to my father's Jazz records and listening to radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy
I grew up listening to my father's Jazz records and listening to radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy. So music and jazz specifically have been a part of me since I was born. I love and perform in all styles of music from around the world. Improvisation in jazz is what drew me in, and still does as well as other genres that feature improvisation. A group of great musicians expressing themselves as one is the hallmark of great jazz and in fact all great music.