Johnny Varro -- Bio
|Background Music: "I'll Take Romance" (Ben Oakland), from Pure Imagination, The Johnny Varro Trio, 2004, Arbors Records, with permission.|
Piano, leader, arranger
As a teenager, pianist Johnny Varro hung out at the legendary Commodore Music Shop and going to weekly jam sessions put on by Jack Crystal, getting to know Willie "The Lion" Smith and Joe Sullivan. Before long he was sitting in for them and in 1953 Bobby Hackett invited him to join his quartet for an East Coast tour. 1954 saw him at Nick's with Phil Napoleon and then with Pee Wee Irwin. In 1957 when Ralph Sutton left Eddie Condon’s, Johnny took over as intermission pianist and later replaced Gene Schroeder in the house band after Schroeder left to join the Dukes of Dixieland. At Condon's he played with such Condonites as Buck Clayton, Pee Wee Russell, Yank Lawson, Cutty Cutshall, Lou McGarity and George Wettling. Over the next seven or eight years, between Condon gigs, Johnny worked in most of New York's jazz rooms including Nick’s, The Embers, The Roundtable, Condon's Uptown, and The Metropole with musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Red Allen, Charlie Shavers, Roy Eldridge, Jo Jones and Jonah Jones. He became part of Phil Napoleon's group working the Jackie Gleason Show and, when the show moved to Miami Beach, Johnny went along. He stayed in Miami to work with Billy Butterfield and Flip Phillips and later replaced Gene Schroeder to tour with the Dukes of Dixieland. 1979 found him relocated to LA, working with Eddie Miller, Dick Cathcart and Red Norvo and joining the jazz party and festival scene which he has continued to do since moving to Palm Harbor, Florida, in 1993. In addition to performing at all of the major international festivals in England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, he has toured Europe numerous times, with Wild Bill Davison, Peanuts Hucko, Ed Polcer and others and toured Asia with Peanuts. He has also led his Swing 7 in numerous festival and concert appearances.
- Jazz Gentry: Aristocrats of the Music World
, Warren Vaché, Sr., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999, Chapter 34
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler, second (revised) edition, Oxford University Press, 1999
- Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia, Richard Cook, Penguin, 2005.
- Sacramento Jazz Jubilee Program article, May 2003
- Sweet & Hot Program article, September 2002, by Charles Champlin
- The Mississippi Rag article, September 1994, by Warren Vaché, Sr.