A 14-year-old pianist who has “… lit up the world of jazz …” (Houston Chronicle) is the star turn at SFJAZZ this weekend. Appearing with Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland, Joey Alexander – whose love for jazz was initially inspired by the music of Thelonius Monk – is quite obviously a jazz force to be reckoned with.
When he was just eight years old, he was invited by UNESCO to play solo for Herbie Hancock when Hancock visited Joey’s home country, Indonesia. By the age of 10, Joey was performing at jazz festivals in Jakarta and Copenhagen. At the invitation of Wynton Marsalis, he made his debut at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall in 2014, and subsequently appeared before the Jazz Foundation of America at the Apollo and the Arthur Ashe Learning Center at Gotham Hall.
He was invited by impresario George Wein to perform on two stages at the Newport Jazz Festival the following year, and the Joey Alexander Trio has played at festivals and venues across the United States, in Indonesia, and as far afield as Tel Aviv, Marciac, Montréal, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Bern, Prague, Vienna and Perugia.
Joey is also the youngest jazz artist ever to be nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the jazz category, and in fact both his albums have received nominations. The first of these was his 2015 debut album for Motéma Music, My Favorite Things, which received two nominations – for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” and “Best Improvised Solo” for his performance of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. He followed these in 2016 with a nomination for his second release Countdown.
This year, Joey has been performing a session dedicated to Thelonius Monk – which he calls Joey.Monk.Love!
Wynton Marsalis says: “There has never been anyone that you can think of who could play like that at his age. I love everything about his playing – his rhythm, his confidence, his understanding of the music.”
If you’re lucky, you can still get a ticket to one of Joey Alexander’s shows at SFJAZZ this weekend, although booking has been heavy. He plays in the Miner Auditorium, in an all-star line-up with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, from November 24 to 26. More information and tickets on the SFJAZZ website.
SFJAZZ program notes