Johnny Varro Johnny Varro

Johnny Varro (born 1930) is a pianist with roots in the swing style of jazz. He is also a leader and arranger. Varro was born in Brooklyn, New York. He began studying piano at the age of ten. During his teenage years he was introduced to jazz by way of the Commodore Music Shop in New York City. There he met the manager Jack Crystal (father of Billy Crystal), who was running jam sessions on the Lower East Side. At these sessions Johnny met some of the greatest players of the era, such as Willie “The Lion” Smith, Big Sid Catlett, Joe Thomas, Hot Lips Page, Joe Sullivan, Pete Brown and others. The experience of sitting in for Joe Sullivan and Willie “The Lion” Smith was invaluable and soon allowed Johnny to become a hired player.

Johnny's first professional job was with Bobby Hackett touring the East Coast with his quartet. In 1954 he worked at Nick's with Phil Napoleon and later with Pee Wee Erwin. In 1957 Eddie Condon asked Johnny to play at his club as intermission pianist. During that gig he met more musicians who began calling him for jobs. The Condon gig extended into Johnny becoming Condon's band pianist. The players in Condon's band at this time included Buck Clayton, Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Russell, Cutty Cutshall, Lou McGarity, George Wettling, Yank Lawson, Peanuts Hucko and others.

For the next several years between the Condon tours, Johnny worked most of the jazz rooms around New York including The Embers, The Roundtable, Condon's Uptown (with Edmond Hall), The Metropole and many others. Musicians such as Henry “Red” Allen, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Bobby Hackett, Charlie Shavers, Jo Jones and Jonah Jones helped further his musical education.

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From Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes: “Pianist Johnny Varro seems most at home in obscure jazz material - not only 50 or more years old, but in some cases, obscure even when it was first performed. Such was the case with more than half of the compositions he presented Monday night, November 11, with the Florida edition of his Swing 7 band at the Charlotte County Jazz Society concert series...Give Varro, house pianist at Eddie Condon's in New York back in the day, extra credit for avoiding tired material.”

Albums by Johnny Varro

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