Smooth jazz is a misnomer, it’s essentially electric jazz that is often more polished that traditional (acoustic), jazz and is more like modern R&B.
But true smooth jazz is one that is easy on the ears and that’s the sound of Jim Gailloreto and his Jazz String Quintet.
I first heard Jim at the 2001 Chicago Jazz Fest playing soprano saxophone with vocalist Kurt Elling. This was Labor Day weekend 2001, the Friday night show to be specific, a rainy night.
Kurt had just released a new CD and on it was a remake of the “Sweeney Todd” classic “Not While I’m Around”. The arrangement on it (originally a Stephen Sondheim song), is haunting but the new rendition was beautiful.
On the live version (not on the CD), Kurt and the band let Jim Gailloreto solo on that for good couple of minutes and it absolutely soars. Its one of those improvised solos that you don’t want to end.
At the end of the song Kurt gives his respects and says, “Jim Gailloreto soprano saxophone”. You better believe us jazz heads were looking up “Who is this guy”
Turns out Jim is a fellow DePaul music graduate and accomplished musician, composer and plays both jazz and classical music. And he does it all well.
Jim along with his talented group are more classical than jazz but its that wonderful mix between Claude Debussy and into chamber music, that still has hints of jazz.
I was able to see Jim and his group at the wonderfully acoustic Preston Bradley Hall within the Chicago Cultural Center some years ago. Now funny thing was, there were a group of people hanging out on the Randolph Street side of the steps and we walked right passed them and it was Jim and his group.
That’s what makes them special outside of being talented as all get out, they are casual musicians, not caught up in themselves or inaccessible. They turn out some of the most beautiful music of any genre, its thoughtful at times, serious at times and even whimsical but always excellent.
Granted I know jazz more than I do classical but I also know just plain good music and sometimes what Jim and his group do is just that. It’s sometimes genre bending and don’t hurt yourself figuring out what they are doing. Their brand of music sounds classical but is structured like jazz, with solos and some improvisation.
A lot of people do jazz just the opposite with the classical background (because a lot of jazz cats are classically trained like Jim), but then get really into jazz. And the great thing is it’s all good. What’s even better is Jim and his group can do that too.
They remind me of a really good sports team, they are loose, they take their work seriously but they have fun and they are really good at what they do.
Jim and his group have several CDs out and they are worth finding and listening to, its music that is good for any occasion, having sophisticated friends over for dinner?
Jim and his group will give you excellent taste.
Just doing some work at home or in the office? Jim and his group keep you entertained but not distracted.
Had a bad day and need to relax? Jim and his group will wind you down. Not many musicians can be so multi-faceted and do so many things so well but that’s what makes Jim a special musician and his group so special at what they do.
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Filed under: Chicago