Delco Nightingale

 

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Delco Nightingale (love that moody moniker) is a gritty, witty punk-rockabilly-jazz fusion band from Philly, featuring vivaciously vampy vocalist Erin Berry, with badass backup provided by guitarist Greg Phoenix, upright bassist Sawyer Thomas and drummer Eddie Everett. They already have a large, devoted following, turning on today’s jaded, melody-challenged kids to genuine swing/jazz standards, stripping down their big band influences and repackaging vintage hot numbers as coolly contemporary shots of pure adrenalin-pumping pop, reinventing chestnuts like “Fascinating Rhythm,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “It’s Magic,” “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” for new generations of rockers, hipsters and hip-hoppers who aren’t even old enough to remember Brian Setzer or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, much less Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald. Though Erin’s sexy, sultry singing is the star of this sassy show, I also really dig the whistling, theremin-sounding "saw" on their brief, all-instro version of “Moon River,” giving Mancini’s melancholy classic an eerily ethereal quality. This is an efficient little ensemble whose every member shimmers, shimmies ‘n’ shines. The tracks on both their CDs to date are short, sweet shots of sonic tonic for the chronically croonless, offering nostalgia for the amnesiac, and a richly romantic retro rocket trip back to the future once promised by jumpin’, jivin’ jukeboxes everywhere, fueled by ironically charged doses of anarchic, but not archaic, attitude.

“There’s a continuum in music, that links some pretty intense rockabilly based garage right back to The Paul Whiteman Orchestra and other swing era luminaries. Delco Nightingale play swing classics and standards in a rockabilly style, with a raw, bright guitar given to comedy whammy work, light swinging drums, deep, warm acoustic bass, and sultry smooth vocals. There’s something truly creative and slightly edgy about the way they pull it all together, and the end result is incredibly compelling.”

Swingabilly: What a concept! Who’d have ever thought of it? Delco Nightingale, that’s who!

Philadelphia’s Delco Nightingale brings jazz standards mostly from the 1940s together with rockabilly instrumentation and gives us something fresh, fun, and wonderful. And they call it “Swingabilly.” The band’s long-awaited new CDS’Wingin’ It  proves to have been well worth the wait with 12 great presentations of classic jazz swing tunes.

What makes this band so fun to me (and a growing number of other fans!) is the way they’ve taken all of these great old swing tunes and given them a rockabilly-influenced treatment.

Lead singer, Erin Berry can belt out the raucous lines just as easily as she can spread the sugar with the sweet melodies. It’s fun to listen to Berry as she takes you along on a wild rollercoaster ride of vocal gymnastics. She’s got a wonderful voice for this material and has clearly studied the style in order to integrate it into her own delivery. She ranges eas­ily from sweet to sassy, often within the same song. She proves that she’d be just as at home providing smooth and sultry vocals in a romantic night club (like she does in the slow introduction to the ultimately in-your-face “Stuff Like That There”) as she would be belting it out for the folks in the cheap seats at the back of a big Broadway theater (as in “I wake Up In The Morning Feeling Fine.”)

The song selection on this record is very cool. The band set out specifically to create a record full of jazz standards. Their promo sheet says, “The initial goal they set for them­selves was to bring these cleverly written, fun, and romantic songs not just to nostalgic listeners of big band swing or to cocktail lounge patrons, but also to a new audience whose familiarity with this music was limited to glances of World War II films or flipping through the family record collection.”

Had they stuck with traditional presentations of these songs, they would have simply been echoing the recent efforts of others. Even if they’d augmented the traditional arrangements with rockin’ guitar, they wouldn’t have displayed much originality (has any one ever heard of the Brian Setzer Orchestra?) Instead, Delco Nightingale exercised a stroke of creative genius and came up with some thing refreshingly different: Swingabilly.

So just what is Swingabilly? Basically, it’s jazz/swing standards done up with rockabilly instrumentation. A full orchestra stripped down to just a three-piece band and a charis­matic vocalist. When I listen to their version of “It’s Magic,” I feel like I understand what Doris Day might have sounded like if she’d have been fed a dose of rock and roll before her recording sessions. This is another song that starts out sweetly enough, but you can’t hold this band back and after the quiet intro, things kick into high gear. And just when they’ve got you going, the pull it back again to finish. Very cool!

Berry carries these tunes with her versatile voice, but she’s far from alone on the record. Guitarist and, along with Berry, the band’s cofounder Greg Phoenix compliments Berry’s vocal lines beautifully as he switches back and forth between jazzy rhythm chord voicing and cutting rockabilly lead lines. He works in, through, and around the vocal lines very cleverly—listen to his chording as he mimics the vocal line in the verses of “I wake Up In the Morning Feeling Fine.” Really nicely done! Another song in which Phoenix particu­larly shines is the disc’s opener, “Undecided” where he opens the fun with a cool intro, mimics horn stabs through out, fills in the spaces with a variety of nicely placed licks, and provides a tasteful harmonized solo.

Driving things along is the rhythm section made up of drummer Eddie Everett and upright bassist Sean Thomas. Everett tends toward a jazzier shuffling drum style as opposed to a straight-up rockabilly back beat, but that’s the perfect choice for these songs. Still, he’s present enough keep the dance floor packed and he knows how to establish a back beat when the song calls for it as he proves in “Stuff Like That There.”

That same song features some great slap-bass work by Thomas who slides comfortably back and forth between cool jazz and manic rockabilly styles through out the record. Thomas and Everett work very well together and provide the solid basis that enables Phoenix to veer off into his creative lead lines with out leaving the listener wondering what happened to the band.

And the band achieves all of this with out studio trickery. The record was recorded com­pletely live in studio, so what you hear on the record is pretty well what you can expect to hear when you see the band live. And I think that’s exceptionally cool!

I’ve been waiting for a while to listen to and review this record. I’m happy to report that it was well worth the wait. I’ve been enjoying discovering Swingabilly and this record will be a great addition to the collection of any one who loves rockabilly and jazz standards alike. For more, check the band out at Reverb Nation.

“Delco Nightingale lead us through a time warp to the 1940s rediscovering the sounds of big-band, jazz and swing standards. However, the four-piece that is made up of vocalist Erin Berry, guitarist Greg Phoenix, upright bassist Brendan Skwire, and drummer Eddie Everett take those opulent orchestrated compositions, strip them down, and inject a bit of the rock ‘n’ roll that really didn’t exist in that time period, thus, creating fun, bouncy numbers for a whole new generation.”

“...ingenuity, paired with a deep knowledge of American music and a highly talented group of musicians, has helped make Delco Nightingale a refreshing presence on a scene that can get tired or overdone. They keep you listening, and the music has enough nuance and energy that it can work just as well on the living room hi-fi as it does in a packed bar.”

“Delco's art is interpretation. On classic songs - such as "Temptation", "When I Get Low I Get High" and "Jezebel" - the band spends countless hours arranging and experimenting with the song structures to find their own voice within the tunes.”

“The Philadelphia quartet performs standards made famous by anyone from Elvis to Ella Fitzgerald, married with high-energy, rockabilly-style arrangements and presented with a showmanship modeled after big band leaders like Louis Prima ... It's all circumscribed by a desire to create something fresh and original, while keeping one eye on the past.”

“The barely year-old quartet Delco Nightingale doesn’t play rough-and-tumble crust punk, but instead travels back to the 1940s, channelling the ghosts of Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and George Gershwin...Taking pieces written for upward of 12 instruments and paring them down to something both recognizable and cohesive is a bit of a challenge, but the group have adapted well. The band’s interpretations are lively and bouncy, with plenty of attitude and expression. The sparse arrangements don’t detract from the songs, but instead allow the band to highlight the backbone instrumentals and, of course, Berry’s nuanced, sultry vocals.”