The art of the jazz duo


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Pianist Johnny Varro is best known for his interpretations of vintage jazz, most of it dating to the 1920s through the '40s. But Friday afternoon's duo concert with bassist Mark Neuenschwander for the South County Jazz Club gave Varro a chance to spread his wings a bit into material not associated with his Swing 7 classic jazz band.

Their duo came about by accident a few years ago when the drummer never showed for a trio gig. They shifted gears and the third man out wasn't missed.

The duo format works well in the right hands, such as these jazz veterans. Varro and Neuenschwander, one of the finest and busiest bass players in western Florida, know when to lead, when to support, and when to sit out and marvel in the other's solos.  This unplugged concert in the acoustically marvelous main gallery of the Venice Art Center included a wide array of jazz standards, most of them romance-inspired. 

Favorites included “Tangerine," the Johnny Mandel's “Emily" (the waltz theme from the 1964 film “The Americanization of Emily"), “Body and Soul," and a Duke Ellington medley that coursed through “Sophisticated Lady," “What Am I Here For?," “Prelude to a Kiss" and “Take the A Train." One surprising number - delightful to these ears - was Varro's inclusion of Thelonious Monk's 1954 bop standard “Blue Monk."

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
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