When one closes their eyes and listens to Joey Alexander play the piano, what one hears is unmistakable: a musician operating in his element, with a sensibility that can only come from years of devoted practice and study. The surprising source of the music, though, is a 13-year-old boy who often plays his instrument in an almost meditative trance.
The word prodigy seems the only appropriate way to describe the young jazz musician whom Wynton Marsalis has praised as his “hero.” While initially viewed as a curiosity because of his age, Alexander is making believers of everyone who witnesses his talent.
“When Joey performs, I believe audiences quickly get the sense that he is not about ‘look what I can do,’ but rather, he is deeply immersed in the essence of the music and has thought about it and feels it and is trying to interpret the music and play it in a manner that makes his performance profound,” Ted Kurland of the Kurland Agency told Pollstar.
Alexander, originally from Bali, has approached performance and composition with a unique seriousness from a very young age, and his family has relocated several times in order to nourish his incredible affinity for jazz, moving to New York in 2014.
Since uprooting to the U.S., the secret has gotten out. Alexander played with Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding at International Jazz Day at the White House this year, showcased an original composition at the Grammys and has appeared on programs like “60 Minutes” and “Today.”
Alexander’s tour routing has him mostly on the coasts for the rest of 2016, with a few gigs in Paris and London and a new album, Countdown, released exclusively on Apple Music and iTunes Sept. 9. The official album release is Sept. 16.
Despite the increasingly large stages Alexander is taking on, Kurland said he is doing a very good job of being himself.
“Joey is a really charming young person who is still in possession of the fresh and playful attributes you would expect from someone his age and has, to his credit, been able to balance the seriousness of his artistic undertaking with the fun and joy of being a kid.”