There have been few French horn soloists in jazz but, even if there had been dozens, chances are that Tom Varner would rank near the top. He started on piano at age eight and a year later switched to French horn, discovering his predecessor Julius Watkins' recordings when he was 17. He graduated from the New England Conservatory and, in 1979, moved to New York. Since then, Varner has recorded several albums (mostly for Soul Note) as a leader, and has worked with such players as Dave Liebman, Bobby Watson, George Gruntz (with his Concert Jazz Band), John Zorn, Steve Lacy, Lee Konitz, and Bobby Previte. Varner almost single-handedly made the difficult French horn a viable modern jazz instrument.
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