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James Chirillo: Sultry Serenade

If you dig jazz guitar that’s particularly smooth and cool, then you’ll want to check out James Chirillo, who’s performed with Tiny Grimes and Benny Goodman.

Chirillo’s playing sneaks up on you. His reading of heads is pretty basic: it’s lyrical but sticks to the ink for the most part. But that’s right before he begins to swing, develops his solo and, in the bargain, attracts your attention. Cases in point include “When Lights Are Low,” “If I Only Had a Brain” and “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” all of which find him negotiating myriad chord changes with apparent ease. But Chirillo can also step out of the box, so to speak. On a Latin version of “I Love You, Samantha,” he sensitively supports Vera Mara’s sultry vocal on acoustic guitar, moving on to contribute an elegantly understated solo. Then there’s his foray into the formal on John Carisi’s “Counterpoise #2 for Electric Guitar and Trumpet” and his own “Blues for Valerie,” which displays his compositional chops and improvisational abilities in the context of a subdued blues.

While it’s a bit surprising that this is Chirillo’s first recording as leader, it’s a safe bet it won’t be his last.

Originally Published