Long-time sidemen Jeff Lego (trombone), Eddie Metz Jr. (drums), Mark Neuenschwander (bass) and Rodney Rojas (tenor sax) were joined by Randy Sandke on trumpet and Pete BarenBregge on alto sax and clarinet. Sandke, a fixture in Varro's New York-based Swing 7 unit, moved to Venice last year. BarenBregge, longtime reed player and former musical director of the Washington DC-based Airmen of Note, also calls Venice home now. He was subbing for the night and fit in seamlessly, sight-reading Varro's book for the first time and adding fine solos on both alto and clarinet.
Material that Varro brought to Port Charlotte for the first time or hadn't performed here in recent years included W.C. Handy's 1917 composition "Beale Street Blues," which was one of several clarinet features for BarenBregge, "One, Two, Button Your Shoe," a 1930s tune that had been recorded by Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday, Jimmy Hamilton's "Big Shoe," Jolson's "Avalon," and "Coquette" from the John Kirby band book.
The inspired players turned in one superb solo after another throughout the night. Varro & Co. closed things out with a feverish take on Al Cohn's "Brandy and Beer." BarenBregge and Rojas went head to head in an alto and tenor saxophone duel reminiscent of Cohen's classic tenor summits with longtime musical partner Zoot Sims. The audience responded with a standing ovation for the night's performance.
The concert drew a crowd of nearly 300 to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's William H. Wakeman III Theater.
|Johnny Varro's Swing 7