Bassist Alex Delcourt has made quite the impression on the Philadelphia Jazz Scene since his relocation from his native town of Gallius, France. He is loved by all in the city of brotherly love and has quickly made Philly into his second home. His debut album, To My Brothers, is a true testament to these facts. This albums’ personnel consists of very familiar faces in the Philadelphia scene and abroad with Trumpeter Elliot Bild, Saxophonist Henry Tirfe, the Legendary John Swana on Valve Trombone, Zion Fritzinger on guitar, Pianist Nathaniel Hawk and drummer Steven Perry. All of these musicians bring their vast back expertise and varied experience together to create something that is uniquely Philly Jazz. The Love and mutual support all throughout this tight-knit Jazz community is something so special and quite honestly sometimes taken for granted; however, Delcourt and crew beautifully capture that emotion with this recording.
The album is dedicated not only to his comrades playing on the album, but also those who have been so supportive of him during his time in Philly—a message well delivered in the first track of the album Poseidon: For My Brothers. With a hard bop melody directly in the historic Philly style, Posiden features blazing solos for Saxophonist Henry Tirfe and guitarist Zion Fitzwater. Tirfe, a Philadelphia native and acclaimed saxophonist in his own right, effortlessly dances over the changes and the driving rhythm section led by Delcourt—this intensity is intrinsic of the Scene in Philly today. The texture shifts to a more open one during Fitzwater’s solo and really allows him to stretch out. The tune ends with a powerful solo by Michigan transplant via Temple University, Steven Perry. The second tune, Tiger & the Bear, might be my personal favorite of the album and sees the introduction of the amazing John Swana and Elliot Bild. The joyous melody, played by Bild, is reminiscent of tunes in the style of Freddie Hubbard with similar instrumentation to albums like “The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard” and “Blue Spirits”. Swana, Bild and Pianist Nathaniel Hawk take controlled but soulfully swinging solos over the great changes and steady rhythm section. The last solo of the tune is taken by Delcourt himself where he gets to feature his improvisation chops with a flowing bop-inspired solo.
Next is the first of the popular French songs that Alexandre adapted for his group. “L’aigle Noir” starts softly with a solo intro by Fitzwater thats sets up the melody played by Bild on trumpet. Elliot, also an out of state (Chicago) transplant to Philly by way of Temple University let’s loose on this song by gradually building on the melody in unison with the rhythm section. The song ends like it began—with solo guitar.
Delcourt favors trumpet led melodies on this album, and with good reason. Bild once again beautifully plays the melody; this time on “Sparkling”, an original melody by Delcourt based on the standard “You Stepped Out of a Dream”. The song features a relaxed two feel and solos from Swana and Fitzwater with guitar accompaniment instead of Piano. Tirfe, takes over the melodic reigns in the next tune tilted “Sudden Breeze”, a Yellow Jackets-esque tune in three. Hawk, lets loose on the first solo of the track and brought back echoes of the great tune “Dienda” made famous by Kenny Kirkland and Branford Marsalis. If Hawk is the role of Kirkland, then Tirfe definitely plays the roll of Marsalis on the second solo with another soulful and masterful solo. Fitzwater rounds out the improvisation and Tirfe recaps the melody. The second to last tune of the album is also the last of the Popular French songs Delcourt utilizes. “Les Passantes” starts with a with an interesting rhythmic bass ostinato that blends smoothly into the melody—this time played by Swana on valve Trombone. This intro feigns one time signature but turns into a slower four for the melody and I had to re listen a few times to fully appreciate. Tirfe and Hawk both are the featured soloists of this song and fortunately for us, the Saxophonist was given the greenlight to stretch out on this one. The final tune is a heartfelt ode to Delcourt’s hometown of Gallius France. The song starts out with a solemn solo bass statement of the melody. Solo bass is definitely an instrument I could listen to and never get tired and Delcourt doesn’t disappoint. I wish there was more! Bild once again beautifully states this ballad melody and displays his mastery of harmony with his first solo.
All in all, “To My Brothers” is a very enjoyable album featuring the past, present and the future of Jazz to come out of Philly. Delcourt has a talent for original composition and orchestration and gets the most out of his band throughout. We in Philly are lucky to have someone like Alex consistently and positively contributing to the scene and are more than happy to call him brother.
-Jazz Lives Philadelphia Reviews
Check out Alex’s current projects at his website: https://www.alexdelcourt.com