James Chirillo - Rhythm Guitar Videos for Essentially Ellington

Essentially Ellington is a program from Jazz at Lincoln Center that uses traditional swing-era and pre-swing-era big-band jazz as teaching tools for high school jazz students. I very much appreciate this approach because I feel the main problem with contemporary jazz pedagogy is skipping over hot jazz and swing, and jumping in right at Charlie Parker. I feel that this tends to breed soloists who can thread mechanical lines through complex chord changes, but because they aren't taught to simply play a melody, find themselves confounded by four bars of the same chord. But that's another article....

James Chirillo, a New York-based guitarist, is featured in several video lessons put up by Essentially Ellington specifically dealing with playing rhythm guitar in traditional big bands. Several of the points mentioned are things I've been advocating, but I've never seen any other video or lesson mention. Specifically, James mentions emphasizing beats 1 and 3, instead of 2 and 4, and relates this to the fact that swing music was dance music.

Ah! Music to my ears. Preach, brother! 

Further, in the next video he talks about the need to use an acoustic archtop specifically, and how to maximize the projection of said archtop by proper set up, strings, picks and especially posture. I've written on each of these points, and I must again agree entirely. 

Lastly, he talks about compensating when using an electric guitar for rhythm. He also mentions some of the slightly more-modern rhythm playing of electric players like Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis in the context of the Oscar Peterson trio, and how they might have voiced and accented things differently. 

To be perfectly honest, when I saw this video posted by my friend, drummer/dancer Victor Celania (of the newly-formed Snorky's Rhythm Kings), I was expecting yet another worthless video that would completely miss the acoustic character of swing rhythm guitar, and even more importantly the dance-beat conception of the rhythm section. But, boy was I surprised when I saw that they were perhaps the best videos on rhythm guitar on youtube. Perhaps their only flaw is that he doesn't play even more.  

Then again, looking at Chirillo's resume, I shouldn't have been surprised: he played in Benny Goodman's last band (along with Jonathan Stout Orchestra and Rhythmbusters member and frequent Campus Five guest Dan Barrett (www.blueswing.com)), and he's frequently shown playing on Michael Steinman's Jazz Lives Blog along with many of today's leading trad-jazz luminaries. Great stuff from a great player. Cheers to James Chirillo.