Who would ever have expected a young man from a tiny medieval town 10 kilometers outside of Versailles to land in the gritty center of Philly jazz? Many of us in the Quaker City would have expected nothing less after meeting Alex Delcourt, a self-taught French bassist who had James Jamerson licks burned into his brain from an early age.
Delcourt attended the School of Modern Music in Paris after high school, but things didn’t really begin to click musically until he got a chance to visit Philadelphia, tagging along with a drummer friend who had a gig here. Alex bumped into one of the city’s top bassists, Steve Beskrone, when he signed up for a year-long exchange program at the University of the Arts. Within moments, Hank Mobley’s “This I Dig of You” was ringing in his head.
Beskrone, a musician with a solid bio that reads like a bassist’s dream, played with the Ray Charles band early in his career (with Philly musicians Johnny Coles and Albert “Tootie” Heath in residence), Horace Silver, Pat Martino, and Philly Joe Jones. His experience—including stints with the 5th Dimension, Freda Payne, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and even touring with the Broadway show Dreamgirls—seemed made to order for Alex’s wide interests.
“He taught me way more than lessons—everything!” Delcourt recalled breathlessly over the phone. “He knew so many different styles. Jazz, Cuban, rock. And he was so positive.”
Beskrone was equally impressed: “Alex was completely all-in, no bullshit. He kicked ass. Everybody kind of rallied around him. And he loved jazz. He’s got an edge. And he’s become a fine composer.”
Back in his little French town of Galluis, the young musician took Skype lessons with the master bassist and a strong connection developed between them. “It was super-direct,” said the elder bass man. “Looking at each other, we zoned in through a computer screen.” Later Steve had a gig in Paris and the two hung out, talking, listening, and playing together, and the gates of jazz wisdom and wit opened wide for this young man.
In 2013, Delcourt moved back to Philly, which has been his home ever since. On his website, he says he loves the city: “When I moved to Philadelphia, I felt that I found what I was looking for: the luxury of studying with my heroes and being surrounded by so many talented musicians, each with their own unique sounds.”
The minute he rolled into town, Delcourt sat in with bassist Mike Boone, who has a solid rep for mentoring young musicians, de rigueur for any aspiring bassist. Nervous he was, but Boone put him at ease, even surprising Delcourt by showing up at his apartment to give him some lessons.
Delcourt is currently working on his second CD, featuring all original compositions, with trumpeter Eliot Bild, saxophonist Henry Tirse, John Swana (who plays everything, but on this CD it’s valve trombone), drummer Steve Perry, pianist Nathaniel Hawk, and guitarist Zion Fritzinger. You can catch him at the club Time on Sundays and at Chris’ Jazz Café on Monday nights. Or pick up his debut CD, The French Quarter—but please, don’t look him up in France. He’s staying in Philly.