With unparalleled access to musical education and online instruction, more and more people are demonstrating exceptional musical talent at a young age. While this proliferation of young musicians is certainly a remarkable thing, it has also led to a diminishing of the once-impressive title of “music prodigy.” However, not all prodigies are created equal, and to witness Joey Alexander in action is to restore the term to its former glory.
Born in 2003 in Bali, Joey took to the piano at the age of six and very quickly rose to prominence not just as a prodigy, but as an artist, in the jazz world. What was remarkable about young Joey was that not only did he possess remarkable pianistic technique but a certain musicality and improvisational prowess that can only be honed with decades of experience. His remarkable playing style soon caught the attention of Wynton Marsalis who gave Joey his first break, inviting him to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center. With little to prove to the world, the 19 year old pianist makes music for music’s sake and it shows in his latest release Origin
Origin is the first of Joey’s albums to feature only original compositions. Steering clear of standards and traditional jazz repertoire, Joey makes it a point to explore solely his own terrain, and with the powerhouse rhythm section of Larry Grenadier and Kendrick Scott on bass and drums respectively, Joey’s compositions take swift flight. Speaking generally about the album, the vibe is warm, subdued and more lyrical when compared to his previous release, ‘Warna’ in 2019. A brief glance at the track listing demonstrates Joey’s engagement with seasonal, pastoral, and spiritual themes. Aside from “Rise Up”, which features some lovely uptempo playing from Chris Potter and Gilad Hekselman, the album certainly is on the mellower side of things.
Perhaps in Origin, we see Joey using this album as a vehicle for his own self-introspection, it certainly sounds as such. While the music is somewhat relaxed, it is never languid, but bristling with life amid the bubbling musical chemistry between such fine musicians. Fans of the groovy and lyrical side of modern jazz will find a lot to like here.