Grammy-nominated jazz piano prodigy to make Maui debut | News, Sports, Jobs
When jazz legend Wynton Marsalis first heard Joey Alexander play the piano, he was amazed.
“I’ve never heard of anyone who could play like him” Marsalis told Anderson Cooper on CBS “60 minutes.”
When the “Little Jazz Man” portrait about the remarkable virtuoso broadcast in 2016, Alexander was only 12 years old.
Born in Bali, Indonesia, he made his US debut at age 10, invited by Marsalis to perform at a Jazz at Lincoln Center gala. He played a solo version of Thelonious Monk’s “Around Midnight” to a standing ovation.
“We all have different talents and my talent happens to be in music,” said Alexander, now 18, when explaining his remarkable ability. “I believe the gift of acting comes from God. I’m just grateful to share my music with people everywhere I go.
Set to make his Maui debut on Thursday, the self-taught musician began learning to play the piano at age 6, listening to his father’s jazz recordings of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Monk. After moving with his family to Jakarta, aged 8, he played for jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who was in the Indonesian capital as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. This is the day he decides to devote his childhood to jazz.
“It was a whole process of listening and playing with people to really like this American art form,” he talked about his passion for jazz. “It’s very special and rich, and I can have a conversation with other musicians and have the freedom to express myself.”
At age 9, he won the Grand Prix at the first Master-Jam Festival, a jazz competition for all ages in Ukraine, featuring musicians from 17 nations. He performed Hancock’s composition “Sonrisa.”
Recorded at the age of 11, Alexandre’s first album, “My favorite things,” was breathtaking. His interpretation of John Coltrane’s standard “Giant Leaps” earned him a Grammy nomination for “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” as well as Best Jazz Instrumental Album.
JazzTimes praised him as “magnificent not only for its virtuosity but also for the maturity and perception it brings.” AllMusic praised his “amazing keyboard virtuosity,” and the New York Times called it “an overnight sensation.”
He then recorded his follow-up album, “Countdown,” at 12 and a half. “Monk, Coltrane and Strayhorn’s tracks are shot here and there in a shiny, muscular style reminiscent of Hancock, Corea and Petruciani, who had to wait until they had no more cropped pants to sound like that. “ noted The Irish Times. And a British review in The Guardian noted, “it’s the performance of an old soul, not just a living soul.”
The rave reviews continued for subsequent albums. The venerable jazz magazine Downbeat, which reviews “Eclipse,” rented: “Joey Alexander’s genius was indisputable at 10 years old; at 14, he only got deeper.
His live performances were also celebrated. At the 58th Grammy Awards, in 2016, he performed during both the pre-broadcast and the primetime televised event. That same year, Alexander also performed with saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bassist Esperanza Spalding at the White House, as part of a nationally televised International Jazz Day special.
In terms of particular career highlights, he said, “One of them is when I performed my original song ‘City Lights’ at the 2016 Grammys, and the other was playing for the Obamas at the White House.”
Alexander released his first album of all-original material, “Origin,” Friday.
“The pandemic has taken away the livelihoods of musicians”, he explained the inspiration for the album. “Not being able to perform with people and do what we do was difficult and at the same time we knew we had to stay sharp and ready when live performances came back. I turned to writing music and I I have all recorded during the pandemic. The origin comes from the Latin world “oriri”, which means to rise.
Thursday, he will be accompanied by Kris Funn on bass and John Davis on drums.
“Our mission,” He concluded, “is always to bring good music, to inspire people and to uplift people’s souls.”
The Joey Alexander Trio performs at the Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $40 and $55 (plus applicable fees).
MACC members get a 10% discount. Tickets for children 12 and under are half price and a University of Hawaii Maui College student discount is available. Tickets are available on MauiArts.org. For more information, call the MACC box office at (808) 242-SHOW (7469) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.