“There has never been anyone that you can think of who could play like that at his age. I loved everything about his playing – his rhythm, his confidence, his understanding of the music.” ~ Wynton Marsalis
Joey Alexander, a jazz pianist born in Bali in 2003, released his debut album earlier this year to considerable acclaim. Yes, that birthdate is correct. The album was made during his 11th year on this planet, and it’s nothing short of incredible – as evidenced by the extravagant praise from none other than Wynton Marsalis, quoted above.
The album contains several American songbook standards, as well as one original composed by Joey, called “Ma Blues”, a scintillating number that will dispel any doubts that the felicity of his playing is somehow contrived. After all, there have been numerous instances in the past of prodigies whose technical ability far outweighed their interpretative skills.
The recording is simply mind-blowing, both for Joey’s exuberant, polished virtuosity and his remarkable depth of feeling. It marks the beginning of what promises to be a wonderful career.
Alexander’s parents were jazz fans who exposed the youngster to the work of Louis Armstrong. Joey soon began exploring the recordings of other jazz masters and now tells interviewers that he has been influenced by the likes of Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau. Are there are any other pianists his age who have even heard of these jazz giants? For all that, Joey is still a kid who is into the Avengers and SpongeBob Squarepants. A kid who also knows very well the wherefore and the why of his existence.
“For me jazz is a calling. I love jazz because it’s about freedom to express yourself and being spontaneous, full of rhythm and full of improvisation,” said the young pianist. Technique is important, but for me first when I play it’s from the heart and feeling the groove. I want to develop by practicing and playing, and challenging myself to get better every day.” ~ Joey Alexander
Do yourself a favour and audition this record. You’ll be of two minds: you’ll soon forget that you’re listening to a pre-teen whiz kid, and you’ll remember every second that you’re listening to a pre-teen whiz kid. The word genius may never have had a better contemporary application.