Delco Nightingale


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Delco Nightingale

Spring of 2008 marked a new era for Delco Nightingale founders Erin Berry and Greg Phoenix.  The two had recently relocated from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, and the time was right to implement Erin’s long-standing dream: forming a project to play old jazz standards.  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 WWII films or flipping through the family record collection.  Nearly three years later, together with drummer Eddie Everett and upright bassist Brendan Skwire, Delco Nightingale has not just met that goal, but surpassed it with a vengeance.

They may be playing granddad’s music, but their attitude is more akin to that of Jello Biafra than Perry Como.  This four-piece combo has been stripping down big band era swing tunes and reworking them in their unique edgy fashion, combining the soul of early jazz with the energy of rock and roll.  Their engaging live performances are as fun to watch as they are to listen to; the band’s lively physicality and repartee shows a nod to various influences, including Louis Prima with Keely Smith and the Witnesses, and 1940’s live-wire entertainer Betty Hutton. 

Between the song selection (which leans toward some of the more obscure songs of the era) and the delivery itself, many audiences find themselves enjoying swing-era standards without realizing that is, in fact, what they are listening to.  Delco Nightingale’s fan base is a wonderfully diverse cross-section of ages and scenes; you’ll find a pompadour-sporting rockabilly boy bopping right alongside a card-carrying AARP grandmom, and that’s exactly how the band wants it.  They have played equally diverse venues and events in Philadelphia and beyond.  Locally, the band has played such notable venues as World Café Live downstairs, The Trocadero, Tritone and Kung Fu Necktie.  Beyond Philly, they’ve created a second home for themselves in North Carolina, where they’ve become regulars at two annual events: Heavy Rebel Weekender and Elvisfest.  It is at these events where they play sets alongside psychobilly, country, punk and rockabilly bands.  Delco Nightingale not only holds its own in that mix, but  has garnered many unexpected new fans; the sight of psychobillies enjoying a Gershwin tune is a delightful vision indeed.  They’ve shared the stage with national touring acts including Southern Culture on the Skids, Kim Lenz, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, the Queen of Rockabilly, Ms. Wanda Jackson and legendary roots/rockabilly/ Americana outfit The Blasters. In April of 2011, they traveled west to Las Vegas to appear at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, and from there, onto Los Angeles to perform at the 2nd annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.  Most recently, in spring of 2012 the band not only celebrated their year anniversary of hosting a monthly Swing Brunch at Philadelphia’s M Room, they were also honored to play an evening at the celebrated Iridium Jazz Club in New York City (aka the house that Les Paul built).

Delco Nightingale’s somewhat “punk-rock” take on jazz also translates to their attitude toward studio recording.  Fed up with the over-compressed, over-produced sound of popular music today, the band’s three releases to date have all been recorded live.  The last two, their EP “Slow Boat to Kensington” and their full-length effort “S’Wingin’ It!” were recorded by Quentin Jones of Lanark Records.  With Quentin, the band recorded each song entirely live, including even the vocals.  Eschewing studio “pixie dust” in striving for a traditional method and sound of recording, what you hear on a Delco Nightingale recording is exactly what you’ll get in a live performance.

 Consistently challenging themselves to grow creatively and refine their craft, the guys and gal of Delco Nightingale have set their sights on writing original material this year.   Penning songs worthy to play alongside tunes crafted by such masters as Gershwin, Loesser or Carmichael could be a daunting task, true.  But each player’s prior songwriting experience with various projects, together with their shared perspective and familiarity with the genre creates some very exciting potential.  In an article in the South Jersey Courier-Post, writer Samantha Melamed wrote about the band’s “desire to create something fresh and original, while keeping one eye on the past”.  That is exactly what Delco Nightingale intends to do.