Review by Dan Ha
Before I start to review Andreas Varady’s debut album, let me start by bringing some to light the fact that this soon-to-be jazz guitar sensation just recently turned 17 years of age... 17! I’ll give you a second to wrap that fact around your head. Mr. Andreas Varady is a late-teenager from Slovakia who started playing guitar at the age of four. Then, in early 2013, at the age of 15, Varady’s young potential was impressive enough to catch the ear of Quincy Jones, whom quickly signed Varady to his current label, Verve Records. With such success at such a young age, it is clear that Varady's musical ability is mature beyond his years.
On the fifth of August of 2014, Varady released his debut album through Mr. Jones and Verve Records. This album is a collection of both originals and covers, with a heavier emphasis on the non-originals. He introduces the album with the relaxing, straight-groove ballad, “Do It Again,” which serves as the perfect allusion to the vibe of his following songs. The very basic instrumentation of this track allows Varady to be flashy when called upon, but the more impressive feat about this track is that Varady holds back on over-ornamentation of most of his guitar lines. Numerous times throughout the song, Varady has many opportunities to be very technical and extravagant. The fact that he still chooses to play simple parts is impressive because he is able to tame his ego as a great musician to give the song some breathing room. His ability to recognize this is one reason why Varady is, as I stated before, mature beyond his years.
Admittedly, one of my favorite songs on the record is a cover of an original which I am not a fan of, at all. The fourth track of the record, “Baby,” originally performed by the pop icon, Justin Bieber, is appealing to me because it features the flashy fusion jazz/pop band, Dirty Loops. Dirty Loops is a very extravagant three-piece outfit that showcases their musical talent to the utmost extent. Every member in the three-piece plays skillfully difficult parts, and in regards “Baby,” Varady proves that he can hang with the technical and the flashy. Unlike “Do It Again,” Varady throws caution to the wind with his guitar parts and straight-up shreds throughout the whole song. I never thought that I would be able to say that I enjoy the song “Baby,” but after hearing Andreas Varady and Dirty Loops’ version, my perspective on this song has changed, and it has changed for the better.
While “Baby” may be one of my favorites on this record, it cannot beat out the last song on the record for my top regard. “Swing 42,” which was originally performed by Django Reinhardt, is too groovy for me to resist swinging my body to. The song has such an infectious and happy bounce, it is difficult to listen to it and not be put in a better place.
If you’re looking for a solid instrumental jazz record that is very straight forward, Andreas Varady’s self-titled record is definitely a strong place to start. Its combination of timeless classics and new-age pop hits gives this record the potential to reach a wide audience of music lovers. Very well played, Varady, well played.
Listen to “Baby” or “Swing 42”