Album Reviews

Joey Alexander


Artist:     Joey Alexander

Album:     Countdown

Label:     Motema Music

Release Date:     09/16/2016


Indonesia-born jazz wonder kid Joey Alexander, at the grand old age of 13, has released his second album, Countdown. Alexander wrote three of the nine tracks, and covers compositions by Coltrane, Chaplin, Hancock, Monk, Strayhorn and Wynton Marsalis. Again, he features the outstanding rhythm section of drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., Larry Grenadier on bass (for tracks 3, 6, 8, 9) and Dan Chmielinski on bass (for tracks 1, 2, 7). Chris Potter makes a guest appearance on soprano saxophone for one track, “Maiden Voyage.” Alexander describes his musical mindset, “You know, I love both creating music in the studio and performing for people onstage,” he says, “but I have to admit there’s something special about getting a crowd excited by playing jazz live. In most situations I try to be calm, but I love the intense energy that happens between me and the audience. When they express their appreciation in this way, I am inspired to go deeper as a person and musician, improve my craft and create exciting new sounds.”

“City Lights,” an Alexander original, opens the set, a swinging up-tempo selection showcasing Alexander’s fluid melodic style and Owens’ magical drumming. “Sunday Waltz” follows with an outstanding solo piano intro and the group settles in with a well-balanced, interactive chemistry. On Coltrane’s “Countdown,” Owens again provides an amazing rhythmic pad for Alexander’s mature melodic language—one that is lightyears beyond his age. Even in the time spanning from Alexander’s first album, My Favorite Things, he has certainly grown as an artist. His command of the jazz vocabulary, ability to convey ideas, his touch, rhythmic flow and inspiring original concepts during his improvisations is astonishing.

“Smile” showcases Alexander’s marvelous capacity to convey a tender, hauntingly beautiful melody with an original re-harmonization of the changes that adds a new dimension to this well-known standard. A real highlight of the album is the interplay between Potter and Alexander on “Maiden Voyage”; Alexander’s ability to follow Potter’s investigative ideas perfectly is a real treat to listen to, and it seems to inspire Potter too.

Alexander’s talents as an artist have reached a new level with Countdown, this incredible pianist clearly establishing his own voice and identifiable musical language. I have reached the point where I no longer think of him as an incredible jazz pianist for such a young man; I regard him as an incredible jazz pianist, period. One must wonder what his next project will bring, but meanwhile, we can all spend hours of deep listening with this record, allowing our imagination to Countdown until then.

– Sylvannia Garutch

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