A 13 year old Indonesia-born jazz pianist has been making quite a name for himself around the world. Jamming in Jakarta, Ukraine, Montreal, Newport, New York, he’s Joey Alexander. His trio now comes to Omaha.
Born Josiah Alexander Sila, his dad was an amateur musician and his relatives include a rock singer and a song writer. So Joey tuned in intuitively into jazz by listening to his dad’s recordings of the sounds heard and loved wherever the globe spins. By age 6, the boy was teaching himself how to play the music on a miniature electric keyboard, ear-wise replicating Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t,” and more.
At age eight, Joey played for much-impressed Herbie Hancock. The following year Joey won the Grand Prix at an all-ages competition in Odessa. In 2014 Wynton Marsalis invited him to take part in a Jazz at Lincoln Center gala. Followed by a debut album in 2015: “My Favorite Things.” By now Joey’s been nominated for Grammys three times and recorded another CD. .
“If the word ‘genius’ still means anything, it applies to this prodigy,” Down Beat’s Allen Morrison wrote, noting “a breathtaking precocity and mastery of several decades of piano style.”
“Prodigy” is a tricky term. It implies talent, sure, but also novelty. Newport Jazz Festival producer George Wein doesn’t go for signing such musicians. He made an exception in 2015, praising Joey’s maturity of harmonic approach. And Wynton Marsalis cited Joey’s rhythm, confidence and understanding of what jazz is all about.
The young pianist later said that he considers his ability “a gift from God” and cites influences from John Coltrane, Harry Connick Jr., Bill Evans and Hancock while also admiring Brad Mehldau, Horace Silver and McCoy Tyner.
Bassist Alex Claffy and drummer Willie Jones III join Joey for this gig.
Why does he love this music? “It’s about freedom to express yourself…when I play, it’s from the heart.”
The Joey Alexander Trio performs May 19, Kiewit Hall, Holland Center, 1200 Douglas St.Friday. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$35. https://www.omahaperformingarts.org/