Reviews for Aegean

Sextet/Septet album of 2015 -The Jazz Owl

"For all of the fun and humor, this is a masterfully crafted composition. It makes you fondly recall Frank Zappa, who wrote such fun music that was so brilliantly and exactingly constructed.

"Varmus' compositions are distinct and varied, showing great expression of character and technique, energy and emotion.
"The compositions on Aegean are first-rate and the musicianship is second-to-none. It is an album that has landed solidly on my shelf of favorite CDs—to be accessed very frequently.
" -Jazz Times, Travis Rogers


"All of the music was composed by Varmus and commissioned by Apostolos Georgopoulos to reflect the personalities of people close to him. We enjoyed the racy "Phineas", the laid back, cool "Selena" and the contrasting peaceful "Lily" with warm, rich solos from both Varmus and McCann. Aegean captures a wealth of emotions in a cool jazz package."
  4/4 stars."-
O's Place Magazine


".. a free floating suite of tunes that have the consistency of clouds... the live takes are like looking at the sketch book of a master painter. I love "Areti" a stop-start chuckle fest of a tune, and "Phineas" which highlights Varmus's voice and is full of conversational authenticity in the interplay between band members. "Nidal"and "Lyra" are faves too.
Hobart Taylor, KUCI Irvine, CA.


"One can search for accolades but it all comes down to virtuosity and soul. 5 out of 5 stars." Grady Harp, October '15

 " A commissioned work to celebrate the lives of various members of the underwriter's family, the versatile jazz/classical trumpet player rose to the challenge to make something artful, meaningful to the backer, and fine listening in that it's clearly arty without being artsy...  First-class sitting-down instrumental jazz throughout, this is a ticket to that part of world jazz you've yet to visit---and you'll be glad you did.  Art and music can come together delightfully when the fit is as good as this."-Midwest Record


"an impressive body of work"- Bebop Spoken Here



Reviews for Terminal Stillness

"Music is very much alive in the mind and trumpet playing of Jacob Varmus. Terminal Stillness gives you plenty of evidence... Varmus is a talent, a beautiful player and composer-arranger."

-Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review

"In lesser hands a long-form program tends to be better sampled in bits, or as interludes - but in this case the sum of each musician's role is the greater sum. Terminal Stillness truly is a full-fledged suite meant to be savored in its entirety..."

-H.Allen Williams, Jazz Times

"Varmus' long drawn out passages have an appeal that easily outstrips the similar minimalist approach of some of his better known trumpet contemporaries."
-Bebop Spoken Here

"...the music evolves and grows in circular fashion, expanding its circumference and reach like ripples from a small pebble tossed into a lake...

"the music actually glows with the warmth of life; in other words, 'slow motivic development' does not a boring album make...the whole is greater than the sum of its parts here."

Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz

"The impact of Varmus has been immense and the results have been epic. Varmus may be one of the very best trumpet players you have yet to hear of. Varmus is indeed a virtuoso."
Brent Black, Critical Jazz


Poetry of Words to Poetry of Music, Grady Harp, Amazon


Press for Genes and Jazz

'Trumpet virtuoso Jacob Varmus plays while his father, famed geneticist Harold Varmus, talks science at Indian Summer's Genes & Jazz concert' [photo caption] photo by Donnelly Marks

Georgia Straight feature, July 15th, 2015


"For the performance, the centre stage was filled with beautiful
biological images, which were projected onto a screen. To the left, Dr
Varmus sat on a bar stool reading from a script, and to the right,
Jacob led his excellent jazz quintet in lovely original compositions
based on the images. This structure provided a powerful solution to a
problem scientists often face when explaining their work to
non-scientists – how to convey, compellingly, the grandeur and mystery
of nature that compels us to dedicate our lives to its understanding."

Daria Siekhaus, PubMed Central, January 2009


"It's just after closing on a Friday night at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington. In the darkened auditorium, a jazz quintet is building a rhythmic floor on a soft, steady percussion line and lilting piano chords. Composer-conductor Jacob Varmus steps in on trumpet, twirling a feverish melody above the beat — establishing a pattern between notes and time, then moving on to a variation of that idea."

McNeil-Lehrer's coverage of Genes and Jazz at the Smithsonian in 2009


"Jacob Varmus's music is lyrical and self-assured..."

-Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, Genes and Jazz feature in Talk of the Town, 12/1/08

Click here to listen to Jacob and Harold Varmus on Science and the City talking about their Guggenheim Works and Process collaboration.

Reviews for All the Things We Still Can Be

"It's apparent after one spin that the leader has fully absorbed the trumpet tradition (especially from bebop on). Varmus impresses with his imaginative lines and full tone."
-Larry Hollis, Cadence, 2007

" awesome trumpeter alleviates my perpetual thirsty ear for horns. Gosh! Jacob Varmus burns quite enough on All the Things We Still Can Be to reawaken my ore-idealism...a powerful trumpet utterance.

The Jacob Varmus band astounds us with a euphonic elaboration including plenty of ardour, reverberations and candle luminance. Varmus is more than generous here. His musings lay on the music of monstrous jazz creators such as Shorter and Monk. Yet Varmus sounds unique among as his peers. That said, Varmus’s inspiration on Chet and Miles is brilliant, gently marked and pushed along by be-bop and post-bop oriented structures."

-Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez,, 2006

****-George Fendel, Jazzscene and Jazz Society of Oregon, 2006

"He uses pedal points, rhythmic fragments to knit together compositions that retain their structural integrity throughout, never sagging out of shape, as the blowing puts pressure on their seams."
-David Dupont, Cadence, 2007

"Prior to hearing his first major release, All the Things We Still Can Be, I was unfamiliar with trumpet player and composer Jacob Varmus. I have to admit that it will often take listening to a few tracks before I warm up to, or can fully appreciate, the style of an artist that is unknown to me, but with Varmus I was drawn in from the first cut.
"He plays with a pleasing round and full sound, and his improvisations are lyrical and musical.
"His compositions have a sense of purpose and structure with very listenable and memorable melody lines.
"I am personally eager to hear what he offers up next."

-Scott Hockenberry, Jazz Improv Magazine, 2007

"On Jacob Varmus' debut recording he proves to be an exciting trumpeter, composer and bandleader."-Michael P. Gladstone, All About Jazz, 2007

"One person who trumpeter Jacob Varmus has mentioned more than once when discussing All the Things We Still Can Be, his first official album as a leader, is Chet Baker. When he was alive, Baker was far from a jazz critics’ darling—many jazz critics of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s wrongly dismissed Baker and other Cool Schoolers as lightweights—but Baker’s impact has outlasted critics’ barbs, and this 2004 date is a prime example of Baker (who died in 1988) influencing someone who is young enough to be his grandson. That is not to say that Varmus spends all of his time going out of his way to emulate Baker; Varmus has other noteworthy influences, ranging from Miles Davis (Baker’s primary influence) to Tom Harrell to Art Farmer to Don Cherry. The only time Varmus flat-out emulates Baker is on “Everything Happens to Me,” which is one of the standards that Baker loved to play; Varmus, who is very much an instrumentalist, even includes a little Baker-ish singing. But Varmus’ own compositions dominate this post-bop-oriented effort, and most of the time, Baker’s influence—although certainly evident—is no less important than the influence of Davis or Harrell. Further, Varmus generally favors a bigger tone than either Baker or Davis, whose mid-‘60s output has had a definite impact on his writing; compositionally, Varmus gets a lot of inspiration from the Davis period that was post-standards but pre-fusion—the Davis who was no longer playing “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “My Funny Valentine” but had yet to kick off the fusion revolution with In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew."

-Alex Henderson, All Music Guide, 2006

"...a different kind of jazz is played by talented trumpeter Jacob Varmus and his band on All The Things We Still Can Be. It's original, exciting and inventive - a great listen. Visit to find out more about this artist, and I do mean artist." -Norman Famous, The Dotted Line, 2006

"Here's a new trumpet player that will simply blow you away. Falling in love with trumpet at 2 years old, he has carried his life long love affair with the instrument to extremes that have really taken him places along the way. This set shows him falling right in step with the masters and the greats. While he might be paying a debt of gratitude, he mostly stands on his own two feet with a smooth, round tone that's all his own and will earn him stature right next to the greats that have come before. A pure player that doesn't go in for farce or overwrought chops displays, Varmus is one to keep an ear out for because he's too good to miss."

-Chris Spector, Midwest Record Recap, 2006

"Be all you can be' is the feeling you get when you hear the jazz trumpet of one Jacob Varmus...And, as you take in his talent as well, Jacob's artistry is 'all that he is.' Jacob's bebop concept has very traditional leanings as seen through the musical eyes of his fine mind and original compositions. In addition to his obvious abilities as a stylistic consolidator, he explores elements of jazz that he exults in performing with a certain passionate energy, interpreting his music with equal ease, while he emits the sheer joy of making art..."

-George W. Carroll, The Musicians' Ombudsman, 2006

"... a disc of warm, gentle and light jazzy harmonies full of beautiful color. A truly enjoyable session of tasteful jazz and an impressive album for Jacob Varmus and crew."

-Edward Blanco, Ejazz News, 2006


miscellaneous endorsements/reviews

"One of my spiritual idols"-George Garzone, saxophonist (with Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano) and educator

"Beautiful round tone"-Jimmy Owens, trumpeter (with Duke Ellington, Slide Hampton) and educator

"A great talent"-Phil Markowitz, pianist (with Dave Liebman, Chet Baker), educator

"Something special"-Richie Cole, saxophonist (with Phil Woods, Eddie Jefferson)

"Jake uses his ears like no one else in the band. Watch out for Jake Varmus!"
-Steve Grismore, guitarist (with Tim Hagans, Matt Wilson)

“What a sound!”-James Dixon, orchestral conductor (with Quad City Symphony, Chicago Symphony)

"I recently had the privilege of recording a CD with
Jacob Varmus and a very talented group of musicians that he
assembled. I have recorded numerous New York artists in my
fifteen years of studio recording and Mr. Varmus was one of the most
organized and musically together trumpeters and leaders yet."
-Jim Clouse, chief recording engineer, Park West Studios

"Jacob has an exquisite sound on his trumpets, muted or not, reminding me of the child-like wonder of Don Cherry. His muted playing is especially endearing, reaching back to older, more innocent and bluesy times." -Downtown Music Gallery, August 26, 2005, New American Wing review