Review: Joey Alexander at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club

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To say that 13-year-old jazz pianist Joey Alexander is a child prodigy is an understatement. He is the future of jazz. According to his bio on his website, he has appeared in performance with Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding at ‘Jazz Day’ at the White House.

Growing up in Bali, Indonesia, Alexander’s father brought him to Jakarta to play in jam sessions with the country’s best jazz musicians. At 9, Joey won the grand prize at the first Master-Jam Fest, a competition in Ukraine which included over 200 competitors of all ages. At 10, Alexander was performing at jazz festivals in Copenhagen and Jakarta.

Wynton Marsalis arranged for Alexander’s US debut at ‘Jazz at the Lincoln Center’ in 2014 which led to performances at the Newport Jazz Festival and his 2015 debut album My Favorite Things.

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My Favorite Things received two Grammy nominations, one for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album,” the second for “Best Improvised Solo” for his rendition of a  John Coltrane number.

And now his second album Countdown has just been released.

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And how fortunate I was to be in the audience watching and listening to this amazing musician in the intimate Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club!

Did Alexander live up to the hype? All that and more. Performing songs from his new Album Countdown, he was accompanied two other amazing musicians: Dan Chmielinski on bass and Eric Harland on drums, who supported his improvised covers of two John Coltrane songs, including Countdown which, according to Alexander, is the most difficult song he ever played.

The real delight came when Alexander displayed his composer side in three compositions: City Lights, Sunday Waltz, and, as an encore, Soul Dreamer. The swing and improvisation underlying his music made each piece thrilling. Chmielinski was taking cues directly from Alexander and their ‘conversation’ was apparent. Harland sat back and softly supported the swingy beat, except in specific drum solos, which retained their jazz roots and were differentiated by volume.

City Lights stuck one right in the middle of crowded sidewalks in any large city. Except these sidewalks are being shot with a time lapse camera.

Sunday Waltz could be the musical accompaniment to a pointillist painting such as Sunday Afternoon or La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

My favorite, Soul Dreamer, was a swirl of rising and falling emotion which ended all too soon.

One testament to Joey’s widespread fame is that most attendees at his packed Saturday night concert at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club had never been to the venue; they came because of Joey Alexander. And I am sure they will be back.

Nothing will keep me from buying both Countdown, his just released second album, or My Favorite Things, his debut album. If you ever get a chance to see Joey perform, run and buy those tickets!

Running Time: 75 minutes.

Joey Alexander performed on October 8, 2016, at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club – 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, in Bethesda, MD.  Upcoming performances at the venue can be found here. Joey Alexander’s current tour schedule can be found on his web site.

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2 Responses to Review: Joey Alexander at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club

  1. Brian Loebig October 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    Great review and overview Bev. I think you captured the essence of this musical prodigy. :)

  2. Anshia Crooms October 12, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    Thank you Bev and excellent piece.