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.
HOMETOWN: 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.
MUSICAL TRAINING: 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.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: 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.
ADVICE: 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.