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Raised in Bellevue, Washington, guitarist James Chirillo has been privileged to work with many of the swing era’s recognized greats, including Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton, Benny Carter, Eddie Durham, Eddie Barefield, Earle Warren, Frank Wess, and Joe Wilder to name just a few, and as a charter member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, he worked closely with musician/educators Gunther Schuller and David Baker.

Today, his collaborations include appearing regularly with the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis, as well as work with such diverse artists as Paquito D’Rivera, Wycliffe Gordon and Michael Feinstein. He has been a participant on countless recordings – with Tony Bennett, Joe Lovano, Houston Person, Marcus Roberts, and Dick Hyman, on the soundtracks of Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown, Everyone Says I Love You and also movies such as Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road and Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. As a long time member of clarinetist Kenny Davern’s quartet he recorded several discs, including In Concert at the Outpost Performance Space.

His recording debut as leader — Sultry Serenade — was selected by the director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University Dan Morgenstern as one of his top five Critics’ Picks for the Year 2000 in Jazz Times magazine, and as one of critic C. Michael Bailey’s Top Ten List of Jazz Releases for 2000 at allaboutjazz.com.

In 2010 he was a member of the all-star/onstage band for the Broadway run of Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away featuring the music of, and playing the original arrangements written for, Frank Sinatra. He also held the guitar/banjo chair for the 2013-14 Broadway show, After Midnight with musical direction by Wynton Marsalis.

Since After Midnight he has continued working with the AM band now known as Andy Farber & his Orchestra. As a member of the faculty, from fall of 2016 through spring of 2023 he headed the jazz guitar studio at the Juilliard School, NYC, establishing their jazz guitar program guidelines.  

As a composer, The National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a 1995 Jazz Composition Grant for his Homage Concerto for Clarinet and Jazz Orchestra, written for clarinetist Ken Peplowski. To celebrate their bi-centennial, he premiered his Grainger Suite, written for and commissioned by the US Military Academy Jazz Knights at West Point, NY. He wrote for and conducted cornetist Warren Vaché with the Scottish String Ensemble in Glasgow for his recording on the Arbors label, Don’t Look Back. His compositions have also been commissioned and recorded by the 48-piece Gotham Wind Symphony.

Guitar studies with Al Turay, Jack Petersen, Remo Palmier and 4-string jazz guitarist “Tiny” Grimes, composition/arranging/orchestration with both John Carisi and Bill Finegan.



Photo: Jonathan Farber