Joey Alexander Plays Beyond His Years

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Pianist Joey Alexander recently performed at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival in June alongside bassist Kris Funn and drummer Jonathan Pinson.

(Photo: Courtesy of Artist)

His method for developing his musicianship also was simple. “The more I listened, the more I played,” he remembered. “My dad would have me listen to records and follow along. I tried to feel like I was playing with that group on the record. That helped me listen and interact with other musicians around me when I did start playing live. So, for me, it wasn’t just about technique. To learn this music, I had to learn to communicate. That’s what jazz is, to me.”

In addition to his playing, Eclipse documents Alexander’s growth as a composer. He wrote six of its 11 cuts and—to make sure bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland had internalized them by the time they tracked—he booked three dates with them just before heading into Dreamland Recording Studios in Hurley, New York. But when he brought Joshua Redman in to record “The Very Thought Of You” as a duo, his approach differed.

“This was the first time we ever played together,” Alexander explained. “I chose this one because it’s one of my favorite ballads. I have other favorites as well, but I wanted to try this one out. We rehearsed it only one time. He really listened and got the feel right away. I’m really thankful that that song is on the album.”

Since his 2015 debut, My Favorite Things (Motéma), Alexander has reached a position few musicians achieve: being informed equally by youth and experience. With this perspective, Alexander can reflect on what he might have sacrificed, as well as achieved, to reach this crossroads.

“There are some challenges,” he acknowledged. “It’s not that easy to be in jazz, especially being young. Sometimes, people don’t take your music seriously. Sometimes, they look only at how young you are and how good you are being young. But that’s the path I’ve been given. I’m just grateful to be able to play for people everywhere I go.” DB

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