“The Future of Jazz”: Philly’s Alex Cross Quintet revamps standards at Chris’ Jazz Cafe

Photo by Jim Laird

As a genre, jazz is quick to be associated with an older generation of musicians, but the Alex Cross Quintet seeks to rework (and revitalize) this image.

The frontman of the ensemble, Alex Cross is a jazz pianist. He’s played a handful of gigs in Philadelphia, performed for the past several years, and he’s done all of this before his twenty-first birthday.

A native of Wallingford, Connecticut, Cross received his first classical piano lesson when he was five. He continued his instruction, but began listening to the likes of Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans in high school and became fascinated by the syncopated drum beats and slow modal harmonies.

So Cross put Tchaikovsky and Chopin on the backburner, took up jazz and has not looked back.

Alex Cross performs at Chris’ Jazz Cafe | Photo by Jim Laird

“I enjoyed the classical piano,” Cross says, “but I felt that my creative side needed to get out there. With jazz you’re able to improvise, to include your own emotions.”

Cross explains that since jazz seemed like the perfect fit for him, he decided to make it his primary focus in college. Now a rising junior at Temple University, he majors in jazz performance. Cross began his studies by concentrating solely on perfecting his technique and mastering the works of established musicians — but once he started to explore composition, Cross looked for additional avenues that would allow him to refine and experiment with his abilities.

“I realized it was good opportunity and a good time to start my own group,” says Cross. “It’s one thing to sit in a practice room and go over ideas and find your own sound. But the second you get on the bandstand, you have to try to let everything happen naturally.” Continue reading →