Very likely, most jazz aficionados no longer remember Johnny Guarnieri. That's unfortunate, because he was a stellar pianist, possessed of extraordinary technique and fluency, and with a flexibility that allowed him to move from musical idiom to idiom with no loss of authority.
Guarnieri had a sterling pedigree: he joined Benny Goodman's band in 1939 at the age of twenty-one and left two years later to sign on with Artie Shaw. He played in both the big band and small group ensembles of both leaders. Johnny was also the pianist for Raymond Scott's group, effortlessly assaying the composer's incredibly challenging material, and he was also a good enough stride pianist to be told by the style's primary architect James P. Johnson that “after me and Fats, you're number three.”
Guarneri delivers this program of standards with great charm and panache. Although there are plenty of fireworks ("Down on the Farm" will scare any working pianist to death), there's also an easy grace and swing, an unforced feel for the blues ("My Blue Heaven"), and one brief nod to barrelhouse on a tack piano.
Lounge Piano Favorites is a thoroughly enjoyable step back in time to an era when pianists were required to use two hands and ten fingers to show their stuff.