James Chirillo

James Louis Chirillo (born May 2, 1953) is an American jazz guitarist, banjoist, composer, arranger, and band leader.[1]

James Chirillo
Chirillo with the Kenny Davern All Stars at the 2004 Breçon Jazz Festival (photo: Barry Quick)
Chirillo with the Kenny Davern All Stars at the 2004 Breçon Jazz Festival (photo: Barry Quick)
Background information
Birth nameJames Louis Chirillo
Born (1953-05-02) May 2, 1953 (age 67)
Waltham, Massachusetts, U.S.
GenresJazz, big band, swing, classical
Years active1974 – present


From 1977 to 1979, Chirillo performed regularly with singers Marilyn Maye, Vic Damone, Joey Heatherton, Lorna Luft, and pianist Roger Williams. From 1979 to 1982, he was a member of The Jazz Knights at West Point, the jazz ensemble of the United States Military Academy Band, a premier ceremonial band of the United States military.

In 1982, he moved to New York City. He studied and performed with Tiny Grimes. From 1985 to 1986, he was a member of Benny Goodman's last band. From 1987 to 1991, he was a member of the Buck Clayton Orchestra and toured Europe in July 1991. He performed with Claude Williams in President Bill Clinton's inaugural festivities, with Bob Wilber and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Benny Carter, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis. From 1992 to 1999 he was a charter member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, directed by Gunther Schuller and David Baker.


Chirillo studied at the University of North Texas College of Music. During the 1976–1977 academic year, he was the guitarist for the One O'Clock Lab Band. His major concentration was composition and he studied guitar with Jack Petersen.

In 1976, with the One O'Clock Lab Band, Chirillo toured the Soviet Union (Moscow, Volgograd, and Yerevan), Portugal, and England — 5 cities, 25 concerts, 77 encores, 82,800 attendees. The tour was sponsored by the US Department of State as part of a US Bicentennial goodwill arts outreach. NBC broadcast the July 4 concert live from Moscow as part of its US Bicentennial commemorative. While on tour, members of the band held jam sessions with musicians from Moscow, Volgograd, and Yerevan.[2][3]

After college, Chirillo studied composition and arranging with John Carisi and Bill Finegan. He also studied guitar with Remo Palmier.[a][4][5]


As leaderEdit

  • Sultry Serenade (Nagel Heyer, 2000)

As sidemanEdit

With Kenny Davern

With One O'Clock Lab Band

  • Lab '76 (NTSU Jazz, 1976)[b]
  • Lab '77 (NTSU Jazz, 1977)[6][b]
  • Jazz at Spoleto '77 Left Bank (Jazz Society 1978)
  • Lab '78 (NTSU Jazz, 1978)

With Houston Person

With others

  • Eddie Bert, Walk on the Roots (Mothlight Music, 1993)
  • Dan Block, Plays the Music of Duke Ellington (Miles High, 2010)
  • Carter Burwell, The Man Who Wasn't There (Decca, 2001)
  • Evan Christopher, The Remembering Song (Arbors, 2010)
  • Buck Clayton, Swings the Village (Nagel Heyer, 2002)
  • John Cocuzzi, Groove Merchant (Arbors, 2011)
  • Benny Goodman, Let's Dance: A Musical Tribute (MusicMasters, 1985)[7][8]
  • Benny Goodman, Live, State University of New York (Jazz Heritage Society/MusicMasters, 1986)
  • Keith Ingham, Jazz It Up with Bayer (Bayer 1994)
  • Keith Ingham, A Star Dust Melody (Sackville, 1998)
  • Doug Lawrence, Doug Lawrence Trio with Dave Leone and James Chirillo (Do La Di Jazz, 1981)
  • Barbara Lea & Keith Ingham, Celebrate Vincent Youmans (A Records, 2004)
  • Joe Lovano, Rush Hour (Blue Note, 1995)
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant, WomanChild (Justin Time, 2013)
  • Bob Mintzer, Homage to Count Basie (DMP, 2000)
  • Joe Muranyi, Moon Over Marstons Mills (JLX Kiado, 2008)
  • Scott Robinson, Melody from the Sky (Arbors, 2000)
  • Cynthia Sayer, String Swing (Jazzology, 2000)
  • Randy Sandke, The Re-discovered Louis and Bix (Nagel Heyer, 2000)
  • Loren Schoenberg, Just A-Settin' and A-Rockin (Musicmasters, 1990)
  • Loren Schoenberg, Out of This World (TCB, 1998)
  • Dick Sudhalter, Get Out and Get Under the Moon (Stomp Off, 1990)
  • Dick Sudhalter, Melodies Heard...Melodies Sweet (Challenge, 1999)
  • Pablo Villegas, Americano (Harmonia Mundi, 2015)
  • Bob Wilber & Dick Hyman, A Perfect Match (Arbors, 1998)
  • Bob Wilber & Kenny Davern, Summit Reunion in Atlanta (Jazzology, 2001)
  • Claude Williams, Live at J's Part 1 (Arhoolie, 1993)
  • Claude Williams, Live at J's Part 2 (Arhoolie, 1993)
  • Jack Wilson, In New York (DIW, 1993)

Performances and broadcastsEdit

Church of the Heavenly Rest, Upper East Side, Manhattan
March 1991
Ruby Braff, cornet; Marian McPartland, piano; James Chirillo, guitar
Jimmy died March 13 and Braff played at Marian's request[9]
  • Around New York, CD of radio program broadcast on WNYC; Steve Sullivan (born 1954), host
Stephen Gosling, Zuying Song, piano ; Eddie Bert, trombone; Stephen Roane, bass; James Chirillo, guitar
New York City, August 18, 1994; OCLC 174517506
"Bye Bye Blackbird," arranged by Chirillo[10]
  • Sammy Sherman, Live at Chan's (Arbors, 1997)
(recorded November 7, 1997 at Chan's, Woonsocket, Rhode Island)
Memorial Day Concert, Tribute to Kurt Masur
Live at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Manhattan, May 30, 2016
Soloists: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); Thomas Hampson (baritone voice)
  1. John Rosamond Johnson, James Weldon Johnson, Bob Cole, "Oh, Didn't He Ramble" (1902)
Other musicians: Marcus Printup (trumpet), Vincent Gardener (trombone), Dan Block (clarinet), Ibanda Ruhumbika (sousaphone), James Chirillo (banjo), Joe Saylor (snare drum), Ali Jackson (bass drum)
OCLC 1050431420

As member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra

Blues and the Abstract Truth: The Music of Oliver Nelson (broadcast on NPR)
Recorded on various dates in Washington, D.C., in tribute to the following bandleaders:
  1. Lionel Hampton: "Flying Home," May 20 & 21, 1995
  2. Artie Shaw: "'S Wonderful," June 20 & 21, 1992
  3. Benny Carter: " 'Ill Wind," July 19 & 20, 1997
  4. Tommy Dorsey: "Chloe," August 12 & 13, 1995
  5. Artie Shaw: "Begin the Beguine," July 18 & 19, 1998
  6. Duke Ellington: "Sepia Panorama," July 31, 1993
  7. Benny Goodman: "Back Bay Boogie," July 19 & 20, 1997
  8. Glenn Miller: "The Song of the Volga Boatmen," July 25 & 26, 1992
  9. Artie Shaw: "Summertime," July 18 & 19, 1998
  10. Duke Ellington: "Take the "A" Train," June 20 & 21, 1992
  11. Benny Carter: "Back Bay Boogie," July 19 & 20, 1997
  12. Duke Ellington: "Cotton Tail," April 29 & 30, 1995
  13. Tommy Dorsey: "Swanee River," August 12 & 13, 1995
  14. Duke Ellington: "Rain Check," May 9, 1993
  15. Artie Shaw: "Back Bay Shuffle," July 18 & 19, 1998
  16. Duke Ellington: "Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'" July 18 & 19, 1998
  17. Tommy Dorsey: "Hallelujah," August 12 & 13, 1995
  1. Jimmie Lunceford: "Blue Blazes," August 12 & 13, 1995


  • Come Fly Away, March 1, 2010 – September 5, 2010 (188 performances)

Published music and papersEdit

Compositions and arrangements

  • "Prelude" (to a minor insensitivity), for the Gotham Wind Symphony (n.d.)
  • "March," dedicated to the memory of Bill Finegan, for the Gotham Wind Symphony (n.d.)
  • "Love Was Right For Us," lyrics by Tanyayette Charlaisse Willoughby (born 1957), music by Chirillo (1984)
  • "When You're in Mind," lyrics Judy Spencer, music by Chirillo (1985)
  • "Now I know Why" (1989)
  • "Skytime Samba" (1989)
  • "Pulsación No. 1," by Astor Piazzolla, arranged by Chirillo (n.d.)
  • "Work Song Blues" (1991)
  • "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen," arranged by Chirillo (1992)
  • "Manhattan Work Song," for the Loren Schoenberg Jazz Orchestra (1993)
  • "Bittersweet" (1994)
  • Valse Prismatique, for Warren Vaché and the Scottish String Ensemble
On Warren Vaché's 2006 album, Don't Look Back (see discography)
  • Homage Concerto, for clarinet and jazz orchestra, Val-Doc Music (ASCAP) (1996); OCLC 41312302
Composed and arranged by Chirillo
Written for Ken Peplowski with the Loren Schoenberg Jazz Orchestra[11][12]
  1. "Swing"
  2. "Elegy"
  3. "Driving"
  1. "Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol"
  2. "Hill-Song No. 2"


  • James Chirillo, "Comments About the One-Note Chord Theory" (October 2002)


  • James Chirillo interviewed by Monk Rowe, New York City, January 12, 2007, Hamilton College Jazz Archive (DVD) (2007); OCLC 895052699, 190787433

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ Helen Hobbs Jordan (1907–2006)
  2. ^ a b Following Lab '75's Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band, Lab '76, received a Grammy nomination for the same category. Both nominations represented the first Grammy nominations to student ensembles of any genre. ("NT Lab Band Gets Grammy Nomination," Denton Record-Chronicle, May 10, 1976)


  1. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.) (Chirillo is in Vol. 2 of 3), Barry Dean Kernfeld (ed.), Macmillan Publishers (2002); LCCN 2001-40794, ISBN 1561592846, OCLC 46956628
  2. ^ "Lab Band Happy to be Home", by Joyce Hopkins, Denton Record-Chronicle, July 11, 1976, p. 3A (accessible via Newspapers.com)
  3. ^ "Lab Band: Members Chosen for Fall Group", Denton Record-Chronicle, October 10, 1976, p. 7B (accessible via Newspapers.com)
  4. ^ "Helen Hobbs Jordan, 99, Music Teacher to Generations, Is Dead," by Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, April 28, 2006
  5. ^ "Devoted Students Rally to Help a Music Teacher," by Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, January 19, 2005
  6. ^ "New 1 O'Clock LP a First-Rate Release" (record review), by Bob Darden (Robert F. Darden), Denton Record-Chronicle, December 8, 1977, p. 7B (accessible via Newspapers.com)
    Note: From 1984 to 1994, Darden was Gospel Music Editor for Billboard
  7. ^ "Jazz: 'Benny Goodman': Ch 12. Has a Winner" (review), by Nels Robert Nelson (1923–1996), Philadelphia Daily News, March 14, 1986 (accessible via Newspapers.com)
  8. ^ The Jazz Discography Online; entry: "James Chirillo;" Tom Lord (ed.); Lord Music (retrieved November 8, 2018); OCLC 182585494, 690104143
  9. ^ Born to Play: The Ruby Braff Discography and Directory of Performances, Chapter 19: "The Pianists and Growth of Jazz Parties: September 1988–September 1993," by Thomas P. Hustad, Scarecrow Press (2012), p. 506; ISBN 978-0-8108-8264-5 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-8108-8265-2 (e-book); OCLC 802531474
  10. ^ "UNT Electric Guitar Ensemble" (concert program), University of North Texas College of Music, October 12, 1998
  11. ^ The Rough Guide to Jazz (3rd ed.); entry: "James Chirillo;" entry by Digby Fairweather; book by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, Brian Priestley; Rough Guides (2004), p. 144; ISBN 1-84353-256-5; OCLC 762959118
  12. ^ Cleveland Jazz History; by Joe Mosbrook; entry: Ken Peplowski (Chapter 22); Northeast Ohio Jazz Society (2003); pps. 207–211; OCLC 53463124

External linksEdit