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Joey Alexander, born in June 2003, is a child prodigy jazz pianist, and in that sense his playing is quite remarkable. His full name is Josiah Alexander Sila. He played at jam sessions in Bali and then, when his family moved there, in Jakarta in Indonesia. One of his YouTube videos caught the notice of Wynton Marsalis, and Alexander moved with his parents to New York with Marsalis’s help – he now shares his manager.

Alexander’s debut album My Favourite Things (Motéma) appeared last year, and on it, he worked with top-rank US players like bassist Larry Grenadier. Grenadier commented that, ‘What I typically find with kid prodigies is that they come from this clinical, Western European way of accumulating knowledge. [But] Joey [comes] from a more intuitive, communal way of playing music’. That’s true, but it isn’t enough to make his playing characterful and compelling. Musical prodigies tend have an abundance of technique but a deficit of structure and feeling, and that’s true here.

This is a pleasant enough programme of standards, jazz standards and originals, with some phenomenally virtuosic playing, but nothing yet to indicate an original voice. I recall that the youthful Joey Calderazzo was fast and glib, but he’s matured into a great pianist. Maybe that will happen to Joey, but it’s much too soon to say. Ask me in 10 years.

ANDY HAMILTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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