At only 11 years and as many months old (he turns 12 on June 25 of this year), Joey Alexander already sounds like a seasoned jazz
master. The Indonesian-born piano prodigy has been blowing
minds and ears since coming to worldwide acclaim in 2013. His debut album
My Favorite Things is out now. Find out more at joeyalexandermusic.com, and scroll past the break for our interview.
I was born in Bali, Indonesia but
I live in Alpine, New Jersey now. We moved so I could be closer to the
New York City jazz scene and have more opportunities to play.
My dad taught me basic chords
on a small keyboard when I was six. I love playing with harmonies. I
had a classical teacher but that didn’t last long because I always
wanted to improvise and swing. My early training involved a lot of
listening and playing along with jazz records that my
dad played every day, and playing in jam sessions that my dad arranged.
I enjoy jam sessions because that is when I learn the most and develop
my style. That’s my school right there, playing with people!
FIRST GIGS: I was invited by UNESCO to play
solo piano for Herbie Hancock in December 2011 and to perform with my trio at the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta in March 2012.
My biggest influences are
Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. I learn a lot from
the compositions they wrote. Other big influences include Bill Evans,
Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Wynton
Marsalis, Brad Mehldau, Cedar Walton and Kenny Kirkland,
just to name a few. I study their styles and techniques and work on
developing my own voice. Ravel and Satie are also my influences.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: Nina Simone,
and “Can’t We Be Friends” performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
INSTRUMENTS PLAYED: I enjoy all sounds (Rhodes,
drums, bass, guitar, trumpet and sax) but the sound of the acoustic piano is my favorite.
MY BIG BREAK: In
May 2014, I was invited by
Wynton Marsalis to perform for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Gala. Being
signed to record for Motéma Music was also pretty special.
FAVORITE KEYBOARD GEAR: Fazioli, Steinway &
Sons, Bosendorfer and Yamaha acoustic pianos.
WHAT’S NEXT: I hope to have the opportunity
to go out on the road and tour with my own band. I would also like to visit Disney World in Florida.
Play ballads. I
find playing ballads especially by Duke and Monk improves my playing
significantly. Always sing when you improvise. This will help you
breathe and connect with the story line. Pray or meditate before
practicing or performing. Music is spiritual.