Johnny Guarnieri


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Johnny Guarnieri was a brilliant stride and swing pianist who, when he wanted to, could closely imitate a variety of top keyboardists, including Art Tatum, Count Basie and Fats Waller. Comprised exclusively of Fats' songs, this tribute to Waller, reissued in 1998, finds Guarnieri taking a dozen consistently outstanding piano solos. The CD reissue differs from the original LP in that four of the songs are here heard in different takes than were previously available, and there is a previously unreleased "Clothes Line Ballet" substituting for another song. When one considers that this CD has just 44 minutes of music, one regrets that the other five performances could not have been included here too. Guarnieri is in brilliant form throughout the set; listen to him tear into "Stealin' Apples." In his later years, the pianist enjoyed utilizing unusual time signatures, as can be heard on his 7/4 rendition of "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" and several different rhythms on "Black and Blue." In addition to the better-known Waller songs ("Ain't Misbehavin" and "Squeeze Me" are here, although "Honeysuckle Rose" is not included), Guarnieri revived a few obscurities, including "I'm Not Worrying" and "Moppin' and Boppin'." Although there are some strong nods in the direction of Waller, Johnny Guarnieri mostly improvises in his own style; the word that best fits this exciting set is "brilliant."

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