x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Child prodigy and jazz pianist Joey Alexander set to perform free Abu Dhabi Festival concert at NYUAD

Jazz pianist Joey Alexander has played for Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock, released a Billboard-charting album, and bagged a couple of Grammy nominations – and he is not even a teenager yet.
Joey Alexander performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in August last year. Getty Images
Joey Alexander performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in August last year. Getty Images

Jazz pianist Joey Alexander has played for Bill Clinton and Herbie Hancock, released a Billboard-charting album, and bagged a couple of Grammy nominations – and he is not even a teenager.

The 12-year-old Indonesian prodigy – who performs a free concert as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival at New York University Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, April 27 – first encountered a piano at the age of 6. The connection was instant – inspired by his father’s jazz collection, Alexander was soon a fixture on Bali’s club scene. At the age of 8 he was asked to play for Hancock, who was visiting Jakarta as a Unesco goodwill ambassador.

Encouraged by the American master’s kind words, Alexander called it “the day I decided to dedicate my childhood to jazz”.

After seeing Alexander play on YouTube, trumpet great Wynton Marsalis invited the youngster to make his American performance debut in 2014, with a gig at Jazz at Lincoln Centre. Alexander and his family emigrated to the States that year.

“I miss my grandmother, musician friends, and the beaches and mountains in Bali,” he says.

Last year marked the release of debut album My Favourite Things, an assured set of small group readings of the standard songbook, including Rodgers and Hammerstein’s title track and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. “The whole album consists of all my favourite tunes – so the title is My Favourite Things,” he says.

Boasting a subtle sensitivity as well technical virtuosity, the album sounds like the work of a far more mature talent, and was rewarded with two Grammy nods at February’s ceremony for Best Jazz Instrumental album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

The Joey Alexander Trio perform at NYUAD’s The Arts Centre, in the Black Box, on Wednesday, April 27, at 8pm. Register for free tickets at www.nyuad-artscenter.org

rgarratt@thenational.ae