Johnny Varro's sixth release for Arbors is a swinging affair with a very strong septet that includes trumpeter Randy Sandke, trombonist Dan Barrett, clarinetist Ken Peplowski (who also makes a rare appearance on alto sax), tenor saxophonist Scott Robinson, bassist Michael Moore, and drummer Joe Ascione, all of whom have worked with Varro on stage during various jazz parties and/or in the studio. With the pianist contributing all the arrangements, the group explores a wide range of swing fare, including the familiar and the forgotten. Peplowski conjures comparisons to the legendary Johnny Hodges with his rich alto sax solo during "On the Sunny Side of the Street." The brisk take of "Old Fashioned Love" features a catchy series of brief solos by the group. Varro's enticing charts of obscure songs such as Fats Waller's "Caught," Johnny Hodges' blues "You Need to Rock," and Jess Stacy's loping "Complainin'" should entice other swing specialists into exploring them as well. Varro also contributed a tasty original to the date, "Hag's Blues," named in memory of bassist Bob Haggart, who died suddenly around the time the piece was written. Throughout the session, the pianist is in the center of things, delivering brief but effective solos as he leads his band through one brilliant take after another. This should be considered an essential CD for swing fans.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden