One of the finest jazz guitarists in Philadelphia, Jimmy Bruno is a passionate hard bopper who loves to swing aggressively but can be a very sensitive ballad player when he puts his mind to it. The Italian-American was raised in South Philly, where he fell in love with jazz as a kid and took up the guitar at the age of seven.
Growing up, he was influenced by such bop guitar greats as Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel and Jimmy Raney but also admired the pre-bop work of Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. At 19, Bruno hit the road as a sideman for The Buddy Rich Big Band before ended up spending much of his youth living in the West--where he did a lot of non-jazz gigs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Although those live and studio pursuits paid the bills for Bruno, he never gave up hard bop and hoped to eventually be a full-time jazz musician. Returning to Philly in 1988, a 35-year-old Bruno was determined to do exactly that even it meant being poor for awhile.
An article in the Philadelphia Weekly quoted Bruno as saying that he went from earning several thousand dollars a week in the West to working for minimum wage at "a real dive" in Philly's Fairmount section--but that he was happy and fulfilled because he was playing live jazz five nights a week. Eventually, Bruno was able to give up part-time bartending and concentrate on nothing but playing and teaching jazz. In the early 1990s, he came to the attention of the late Concord Jazz founder/president Carl Jefferson, who was impressed with his playing and signed him to the label.
Bruno's first album as a leader, Sleight of Hand, was recorded in 1991, followed by other bop-oriented Concord dates like Burnin' in 1994 and Like That (which featured organist Joey DeFrancesco) in 1995. The late 1990s found Bruno continuing to record for Concord while playing and teaching extensively around Philly. His first Live at Birdland recording appeared in 1997; its sequel, a collaboration with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, followed two years later. Bruno next resurfaced in the spring of 2000 with Polarity.