At just 14 years old, jazz piano prodigy Joey Alexander has performed on The Today Show, 60 Minutes, and for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Alexander is also the youngest-ever Grammy® nominee in a jazz category. Through a sound and soul older than him, Alexander holds court with the greats and continues to refine his own musical perspective.
Prodigy. Wunderkind. Genius. Words intended as praise and ripe with opportunity, but often freighted by expectations and fraught with pitfalls. However, through his preternatural jazz-piano virtuosity, 14-year- old Joey Alexander has found all that matters musically: the sweet freedom of evolving expression.
Hailing from Indonesia—where his parents exposed him to jazz greats in the womb and his aunt is a pop star—Alexander took up piano as a creative outlet for childhood energy. By age 6, he says, he had “found the keys and felt the sound” of jazz. In 2013, he won the Grand Prix at Master-Jam Fest, an all-ages competition in Ukraine. The next year, a then 10-year-old Alexander performed a Jazz at Lincoln Center gala—on personal invitation from Wynton Marsalis and receiving a standing ovation that The New York Times said made Alexander “an overnight sensation.” Alexander and his family then moved to New York, a home base from which he has performed at jazz festivals in Montreal, Newport, and Copenhagen, in the Apollo Theater, on The Today Show and 60 Minutes, and for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Alexander is also the youngest-ever Grammy® nominee in a jazz category, with a total of three behind his 2015 debut album on Motéma Music, My Favorite Things, and 2016’s Countdown (named after a track by one of his many “teachers,” John Coltrane).
As with most aspects of teen life, Alexander’s technique continues to mature—expanding on the elocution and expression of his hard-bop heroes with “soft, watercolor chords in the right hand and punchy bass lines in the left” (Down Beat). Through a sound and soul older than him, Alexander holds court with the greats and continues to refine his own musical perspective—a declarative, delightful voice poised to join the greats in the next generation of jazz.
Joey Alexander, piano | Dan Chmielinski, bass | Ulysses Owens, Jr., drums
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.”
— Wynton Marsalis
Join Don Seybold, host of WBAA’s Inside Jazz, for a discussion about the evening’s performance.