Since 2012, the world has been celebrating a special day for jazz lovers called International Jazz Day. Herbie Hancock as the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and the Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova proclaimed April 30th as the date and set it to raise awareness in the international community of the virtues of jazz as an educational tool as well as a force for peace, unity, and dialogue. Jazz musicians and enthusiasts around the world celebrate it in their own ways. Just as we are getting closer to that day we received a very good news that should make us all proud. The little boy piano prodigy by the name of Joey Alexander is invited to participate in the annual benefit Gala Dinner of Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 1, 2014.
If playing at this jazzy corner of the historical complex of buildings in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City is already highly prestigious, Joey is going to get even more honor, because there he will perform with the living legend Wynton Marsalis and the great, great Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO). The concert is titled “LOVE, LOSS AND LAUGHER: THE STORY OF JAZZ”, set to be held at the Frederick P. Rose Hall, “The House of Swing”. Standing at the host is none other than famous movie star/comedian/MC, Billy Crystal. Joey is native Indonesian, and he’s still 10 years old. What a beautiful way for us Indonesian to celebrate this year’s International Jazz Day. And for your information, Joey is the only foreign musician that has an honour to play at this legendary concert. Way to go, Joey!
In conjunction with Joey’s upcoming performance “Love, Loss and Laughter: The Story of Jazz with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra, a press conference was held on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 located at iCanStudioLive, Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta. Joey was there to explain everything about his involvement in this concert. It was a bit rainy out there and the press conference started later than on schedule. But joey warmth us with his magical hands on solo piano performance.
Then MC officially opened this press conference by greeting us and let Lucy Willar as the host of iCanStudioLive to give a little explanation about this wonderful kid and how he become one of featured artist at that concert. Denny Sakrie were also there to give his opinion about Joey from the expert view. He told us that Joey has a common thing with Indra Lesmana. They got their beautiful talent since they were toddlers. Denny believes that Joey will bring a great impact to Indonesian music industry. Lucy Willar called him as a ‘black diamond’ while Denny Sakrie mentioned that medias have called him as ‘Harry Potter of Jazz’. As you know, Joey always wear glasses that make him look exactly like Harry Potter, of course also the wizardous jazz piano playing. That’s the way we love to call him since the first time we spotted him in 2011 (http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/red-white-jazz-lounge-christmas-jazz-special-the-report/).
With the innocence of a child, Joey gave us a little explanation about how he started all of these until he could receive so many achievements internationally. It went really well and intimately. The attending medias congratulated him and asked him about how he prepared himself for this concert. We asked him will this concert affect him, he said that this is going to be one of his life’s legendary moments. He’s really excited and he is also ready to play there.
By now you should already be familiar with this wonder-kid. Imagine where you were and what you were doing at the age of 10, Joey has done things that not even adults or seniors can achieve.
Here’s a little profile of him. Joey was born in Denpasar, Bali on June 25, 2003. His parents bought him a mini keyboard when he was 6 years old. They got caught by surprise when noticing little Joey was already able to play the melody line of Thelonious Monk’s classic, “Well You Needn’t” out of nowhere. His parents directly gave him piano lesson. This little boy chewed everything up in no time. In just a year or so, he could already play difficult jazz renditions, mastering the improvisation with perfect skill that enabled him to play alongside big names in spontaneous jam sessions. For him, jazz is really great. You can play it spontaneously, with a coll improvisation. Jazz also gives him a freedom at playing and also, swing… That’s why he prefer jazz rather than other genres, such as modern or classic.
We met him for the first time at Indra Lesmana’s RW Jazz Lounge: The Christmas edition 2 years ago. At that time when he was still 8 years old he already stunned everyone by executing “My Favorite Things” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” flawlessly, just like a pro. At the age of 9 he already played alongside jazz giants and legends. He was invited by UNESCO in December 2011 to play solo piano in front of the jazz living legend Herbie Hancock during his visit to Inodnesia as a goodwill ambassador of UNESCO. He has graced many international festivals such as the Java Jazz Festival, JakJazz, Jazz Goes to Campus, World Youth Jazz Festival in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and gained spot at television. After winning the Grand Prix award of the first International Jazz Improvisation contest, Master-Jam Fest in Odessa, Ukraine last year by topping hundreds of other contestants (it was awarded not only for professionalism and talent, but also for whose performance became a phenomenon of jazz life), this year he’s in the news again by being featured in The Good News with the Ellen Degeneres Show.
In the invitation letter, Jason Olaine, the Director of Programming and Touring Jazz at Lincoln Center said this: “In my capacity as Director of programming and Touring for Jazz at Lincoln Center, I have the pleasure of inviting Mr. Joey Alexander to New York to participate in our annual benefit Gala with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, May 1, 2014. As a rising star on piano, we recognize his artistry and musicianship and would be honored to present him to our American audiences in New York City.”
If you ask us, Joey really deserves it. You will know it once you listen to his play or watch. We have seen him pinning complex compositions from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea just like a long time experienced pro. The last time we heard his piano playing was in a track “Glory Glory” with Benny Likumahuwa Jazz Connection in the new CD “Rekam Jejak Vol. 1”. In this track if you don’t see who plays, you will never dare to take a guess that it all came from a little boy. He plays maturely with high skill, really good at controlling and fully understand his role when playing with other cats. His improvisations are flawless and always appear in the right moment. Normally something like this only come from players who have been doing it for many decades, yet Joey is indeed one of a kind. He’s cute, sometimes shy, just like any other kids, but once he’s placed behind the piano, it’s all a different story.
Back to the press conference, right after the talkshow, Joey gave a special performance in a trio formation. Joining him in this intimate little concert were Barry Likumahuwa on bass and Sandy Winarta on drums. They played 2 songs, the first one was coming from Joey called “Ma Blues”. Once again, Joey amazed us along with the undeniably great contribution from Barry and Sandy. They played harmonically and it was fun! Right after that, Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” perfectly closed our press conference that evening. It was a great pleasure for Barry Likumahuwa and Sandy Winarta to support this awesome kid. As Barry called him as a jazz phenomenon. Benny Likumahuwa, who were also there, reminded us that Joey could do all of these because of God. “We can’t make someone like him in school either elsewhere, all his talents purely came from Him.” said Benny. Growing in the right environment and atmosphere has helped him to develop his skill faster than normal too. The bottomline is, Indonesian Jazz scene and in general every Indonesian should be proud to have a son like him.
Congratulations Joey, good luck and have fun with your very special performance “Love, Loss and Laughter: The Story of Jazz” as a part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center‘s annual benefit Gala with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in New York. We are proud of you and take this news as a perfect gift of International Jazz Day celebration. May more people in the world hear your jazz artistry and mastery and hey, keep spreading good news about Indonesia to the world!
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