Preview: Andreas Varady next Monday at Ronnie’s

Preview: Andreas Varady Quartet
(Monday 21st March 2011, Ronnie Scott’s, Preview by Rod Fogg)

A few months ago, a friend sent me a link to a Youtube video of a young boy playing jazz guitar on the street. He played an up-tempo blues, taking chorus after chorus with great style and bravado, and yet he was clearly just a child. Well, it turns out that child was Andreas Varady, and at the age of 13, he is about to become the youngest musician ever to headline at Ronnie Scott’s.

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His debut CD features Andreas playing guitar with his dad, Bandi Varady playing rhythm guitar. Michael Janisch plays bass, with up-and-coming Irish drummer David Lyttle. There is a fair mix of jazz standards, bebop and blues, and some originals, two from Varady and two from Lyttle.

The opening track, an original by Varady is perhaps a little generic, but there’s no doubting the confidence in his solo, flying all over the guitar in single notes before moving to Wes Montgomery style octaves. On Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee the guitar and bass take the tune in unison and Varady demonstrates his assuredness in the bebop style in his solo. Festival 48 is a Django Reinhardt tune played on acoustic guitar with appropriate Django-style verve and vigour.

Other points of interest are Giant Steps, played here as a cool bossa nova; and Blues for Edward, the second Varady original, in which he takes the standard 12 bar blues form and adds a quirky six bar tag – a promising sign that shows innovation and originality developing in addition to the already present technical virtuosity.

Without doubt the playing on the album as a whole is remarkably self-assured. There is also something delightfully old school about the tone – Varady mostly eschews distortion and effects for a clean but nonetheless gutsy guitar sound. You could say that at the moment he’s into straight jazz rather than any of the more trendy fusion-inspired genres, and the album has its own distinctive sound and style as a result.

It is not the most innovative debut album by a jazz guitar player; but that would be asking a great deal from a 13-year-old. What it is, is thrillingly virtuosic, and highly promising.

Andreas Varady and David Lyttle’s CD “Questions” (Lyte Records LR002) is out on general release.

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