Johnny Varro: Say Yes
27-30 Nov 1996
Arbors ARCD 19178
Johnny Varro, one of the jazz piano greats, performs some of his old favorites and a few rarely played anywhere in his first solo piano album in many years.
- Wherever Thereīs Love (Thereīs You and I)
- Youīre a Lucky Guy
- All Too Soon
- Georgia Cabin
- I Never Knew I Could Love Anybody (Like Iīm Loving You)
- My Fate Is in Your Hands
- Echo of Spring
- Say Yes!
- Itīs Been So Long
- Itīs Wonderful
- Did I Remember?
- Have You Met Miss Jones?
- Itīs Easy To Remember
- If You Could See Me Now
Reflections by Johnny Varro
In the March, 1990 issue of JazzTimes, Mel Powell wrote:
"I think it is infinitely more difficult to play solo jazz piano than to play serious classical music. There is nothing harder than solo jazz piano. You can play a slow blues and you ain't coasting. Not for a moment can you coast."
Well, I can't speak for classical piano but I sure see what he was getting at with respect to solo jazz piano. So, with that in mind, I brave the fates and dedicate the following group of songs to every jazz piano player I ever listened to. After all, there is a little bit of each of them in me. I thank them all and hope to do them honor.
Wherever There's Love (There's You and I) - I worked with Edddie Condon on and off from 1957 through 1966 and never, encountered this tune which he had written. I heard it much later on and fell in love with it.
You're a Lucky Guy - I first played this tune with Maxine Sullivan and dug it right away. I enjoy playing tunes that don't start on the root and this is one of them.
All Too Soon - A great tune not too often played. I first played it with Vic Dickenson when we were both with Bobby Hackett in 1956. We played the Colonial Tavern in Toronto and the Blue Note in Chicago. Vic gushed through it every night. So smooth.
Django - A very interesting piece. Not the standard 32-bar song. Lots of different passages in it, plus an interlude.
Georgia Cabin - A not too often performed folk-type melody by Sidney Becher reminiscent of Hoagy Carmichael's Moon Country and Robeson's Pidgeon-Toed Joad. A real treasure.
I Never Knew I Could Love Anybody - The other I Never Knew. The other one is always played at festivals and elsewhere but this one I first played with Phil Napoleon at Nick's as early as 1954. That dates one.
My Fate Is in Your Hands - Never heard it before Johnny Guarnieri taught it to me in Los Angeles during his stint at the Tail of the Cock in Studio City. Great Fats tune. But aren't they all?
Echo of Spring - I heard Willie "The Lion" Smith play this many times around New York while I was growing up in the City. I met him at the Central Plaza in New York in the late '40s/early '50s and he would have me sit in for him on numerous occasions. A great help in getting me started.
Say Yes! - The other Fats Waller waltz. My first introduction to this was a Ralph Sutton recording. Fun to play as most jazz waltzes are. Incidentally, I succeeded Ralph as the intermission pianist at Eddie Condon's in Greenwich Village when Ralph left for the West Coast in 1957.
It's Been So Long - Just a tune I enjoy playing. Wish more players knew it.
It's Wonderful - Everyone confuses this title with the Gershwin tune, but this one is by Stuff Smith. Definitely different. I first did this with Tom Saunders and I've enjoyed playing it ever since.
Did I Remember? - This tune lay in the back of my head for a while until Ken Peplowski called it one night and it has been part of my repertoire ever since.
Forevermore - I first heard this song on a Commodore side. It was a piano solo by Joe Sullivan. I lost the record and mentioned the tune to Marty Grosz- who promptly sent me a copy of the music. Shortly after that I met someone at a Jazz Party who sent a tape not only of the version on Commodore that I remembered but a second cut as well. I might add that Joe Sullivan was the other piano player in New York during my growing years who would invite me to sit in for him at the Central Plaza and at Jimmy Ryan's on 52nd Street. Great learning period for me.
Have You Met Miss Jones? - Just a great tune by Rodgers and Hart. Not much more needs to be said.
It's Easy To Remember - One of my favorite songs, also by Rodgers and Hart. Always enjoy playing it.
Nuages - An unusual Django Reinhardt tune that can be played many ways. The different chord changes give one lots of options, which is always good in improvising.
If You Could See Me Now - A beautiful tune, especially the bridge, written by Tadd Dameron, a be-bop player during the `50s. Not played too often.
Emaline - A wonderful well-balanced song that I enjoy playing whenever it is called.
Soon - A great Gershwin tune with some interesting changes, especially on the turnaround on bars 13 through 16.
This is it. Some old favorites and a few that are rarely played anywhere. Hope you enjoy them. I enjoyed playing them.
Johnny Varro, October, 1997