James Chirillo has worked with many Swing Era greats, including Benny Carter, Eddie Durham, Eddie Barefield, Earle Warren, Frank Wess, and Joe Wilder. He studied guitar with Jack Petersen, Remo Palmier, and four-string jazz guitarist “Tiny” Grimes, and composition, arranging, and orchestration with John Carisi and Bill Finegan. As a member of Benny Goodman’s last band and the Buck Clayton Orchestra, Chirillo has participated in numerous recording projects and made recordings as a longtime member of clarinetist Kenny Davern’s quartet, with Tony Bennett, Joe Lovano, Houston Person, Marcus Roberts, and Dick Hyman, and in the soundtracks for films including Sweet and Lowdown, Everyone Says I Love You, Revolutionary Road, and The Aviator. Sultry Serenade, his recording debut as leader, was among the top five “Critics’ Picks” for the year 2000 in Jazz Times magazine and was one of 10 top jazz releases for 2000 at allaboutjazz.com.
A charter member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Chirillo also works regularly with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In 2010, he was a member of the band for the Broadway run of Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away. In After Midnight, he played guitar and banjo in the onstage band. Chirillo premiered his Grainger Suite, written for and commissioned by the U.S. Military Academy Jazz Knights at West Point, N.Y., on the occasion of their bicentennial. Chirillo wrote for and conducted cornetist Warren Vaché with the Scottish String Ensemble in Glasgow for his recording of Don’t Look Back on the Arbors label. Chirillo’s compositions have also been commissioned and recorded by the Gotham Wind Symphony.