These days, Jimmy Bruno plays what he wants

After returning home to Philadelphia, Jimmy Bruno didn’t touch his personalized Sadowsky guitar for a full two years. He had spent more than a decade in Las Vegas, playing the same tunes over and over to hordes of tourists, plus another half-dozen years in Hollywood, recording soundtracks for television and film.

“I was just tired of being a gun for hire,” he says from his home in Abington. “I didn’t have any passion for it anymore. It was, pretty much, you know: Go in, play your part, get your check and see ya later.”

But around 1991, a few Philly friends convinced him to front a guitar-fueled straight-ahead quartet. And with the help of Jack Prince, a local restaurant owner and jazz fanatic, Bruno soon had a modest recording deal with Concord Records. Seven albums later, the 58-year-old axeman is enjoying the second career of his dreams, picking precisely the kind of melodies that are so close to his heart: gentle, measured, passionate renditions of mid-20th century classics.

“I grew up feeling that straight-ahead jazz was a much more sophisticated kind of music. It was endlessly interesting to my ears. And it still is,” says Bruno. “No matter how many times I play these tunes, they’re so harmonically rich that I never get tired of them.”

This weekend, Bruno’s quartet will roll into Chris’ Jazz Cafe for a two-night stand with a special guest, New York guitarist Peter Bernstein. “I like to read the audience. That really determines what I play,” says Bruno. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I can usually get a feel for where they’re at.”

Jam like Jimmy

The Jimmy Bruno Guitar Workshop is an online jazz guitar course. Bruno founded the business in 2007. Lessons can be found at

If you go

Jimmy Bruno plays Chris’ Jazz Cafe Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. For tickets ($20-$25) visit

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