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Cabaret setting suits Swing 7

Johnny Varro and his jazz band, Swing 7, feed off the energy of a live crowd.

"It's interactive. It's instantaneous," he said. "The more they enjoy it, the harder we play."

On Sunday, the Hernando Jazz Society will sponsor Swing 7 at the Masaryktown Community Center. The venue, which accommodates an audience of about 300, is set cabaret style, said jazz society president Roy Daniels.

"It's the best way to have a jazz concert," he said. "People feel more free to enjoy the music."

And enjoy it they do.

The atmosphere at past jazz society concerts has leaned toward the Bohemian, and it is not uncommon for dancing to break out, Daniels says.

Varro doesn't think that will be a problem for Swing 7. Throughout its performances, he says, the band varies tempo and style, never becoming entrenched in any one facet of jazz.

"We can move from Dixieland right into a blues ballad," Varro said. "We play everything from Ellington to Basie. We have enough variety to make everyone happy."

Over the years, the jazz pianist has learned about variety by working with many influential and diverse artists. From the age of 10, he sat in on jam sessions with the likes of Willie "The Lion" Smith, Joe Thomas and "Big Sid" Catlett.

Later, Varro played jazz rooms around New York and toured with jazz greats, including Bobby Hackett and Eddie Condon.

Swing 7 has been local for about four years, since Varrow moved to Palm Harbor. Before that, the band had another incarnation in Los Angeles.