Friday Night with the Joey Alexander Trio
4400 Day School Place, Santa Rosa
8:00 p.m. | $75 | $55 | $45 Reserved seating
Event Sponsor – Thomas Sparks, Jr. Beverage sponsors: Foley, North Coast and Arbor Bench, Young’s Market
Those of us who have thrown in with this art form called jazz probably have in inkling of how challenging it is to play. Jazz is a lifetime project that requires, at minimum, the skills of a well-trained classical musician, but brings in an entirely different spectrum of artistry – improvisation. Jazz musicians have to go way beyond the reading of charts; they must achieve mastery in order to express what is in their soul. Jazz is not music to be undertaken casually.
A good jazz musician might be ready to perform professionally by age 20 or so; younger than that is rare. To be able to play jazz before the teen years is practically unheard of – much rarer than in classical music. Yet the occasional prodigy comes along to blow our minds. Healdsburg’s got one this year. He is a 12-year-old Indonesian pianist named Joey Alexander, and he’s leading a trio at the Jackson Theater. Right about now you should stop reading this and head over to youtube.com, where several videos of Joey playing – starting from when he was around 8 – are available. Or, listen to his hard-swinging album, My Favorite Things. You might want to have a tissue handy. Expect shock, and maybe tears.
Because when you see and hear a little kid play jazz like he does, you really have to open yourself to the possibility that miracles exist. This child is truly, actually, really, no jive, playing piano at the level of masters like Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner. Joey is so accomplished, his lack of seasoning isn’t even an issue. He’s got two extremely experienced sidemen in his band – bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. — and you will not believe the paces he will put them through. They won’t believe it either, because it’s not in the realm of belief; they’ll just try to keep up.
Since his parents moved him from Bali to Jakarta so Joey could be exposed to more jazz musicians, the young pianist has performed at jazz festivals and competitions in Jakarta, Ukraine, and Newport; Wynton Marsalis enlisted him to perform at the 2014 Jazz at Lincoln Center Gala; and Joey dazzled the crowd during a tribute to Herbie Hancock at the Jazz Foundation of America Gala in 2014.
As it happens, the Healdsburg Festival is no stranger to jazz prodigies. The second festival, in 2000, had the honor of introducing a 12-year-old guitarist named Julian Lage, who also brought shock and awe to the audience. Julian will be opening the fest this year (on June 3) with his New Trio. He’s a big boy now, at 28, and one of the most innovative guitarists in the world. One only imagines what Joey Alexander will sound like at 28.