Pianist Joey Alexander, just 14 years old, and his trio will star in the sixth and final installment of “The Essentials,” an innovative series devoted to honoring the history of jazz.
The performance is presented by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. It is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, in the Jemison Concert Hall. Tickets are $40. Call 205-975-2787 or visit AlysStephens.org.
UAB faculty may purchase $25 tickets; a limited number of $25 tickets are available for most performances. UAB students may purchase $10 tickets with valid student ID at the ASC Box Office. Limit one ticket per student, and a limited number of tickets are available for each show. Faculty and staff may receive a 20 percent discount on single tickets.
Hosted by the center’s own artist-in-residence Eric Essix, this performance will focus on the future of jazz. At such a young age, Joey has performed at the 58th annual Grammy Awards and impressed the “Today” show, “60 Minutes,” CNN, The New York Times, and a host of other television, radio and print media.
Born June 25, 2003, on the island of Bali, Joey originally learned about jazz from his dad and a variety of classic albums, according to his website. At the age of 6, he began teaching himself to play piano using an electronic mini-keyboard given to him by his father. He was immediately able to pick out the melody of Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t,” and his dad nurtured his gift of swing and improvisation by taking him to jam with veteran musicians in Bali and Jakarta.
Joey’s musicianship and grasp of jazz fundamentals developed at a remarkable pace, and at age 8 UNESCO invited him to play solo piano for an elated Herbie Hancock during the piano great’s visit to Indonesia. Joey later said to Hancock, “You told me that you believed in me, and that was the day I decided to dedicate my childhood to jazz.”
An invitation from jazz legend Wynton Marsalis led to his U.S. debut appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall in 2014, where he amazed the audience with his musicality.
“There has never been anyone that you can think of who could play like that at his age,” said Marsalis of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. “I love everything about his playing.”
Wishing to encourage development of his prodigious playing, his parents sold the family business in Jakarta and relocated to the United States. Promoters were skeptical but soon recognized his ability to delight audiences. After accepting an invitation from impresario George Wein to perform at the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival, Joey brought audiences to their feet with his playful musicality and keen sense of swing.
His 2015 debut album, “My Favorite Things,” garnered two Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Solo for his performance of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” making him the youngest jazz artist ever nominated for a Grammy. In the last two years, the Joey Alexander Trio has performed at venues and festivals across the United States and around the globe, including Tel Aviv, Marciac, Montréal, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Bern, Prague, Vienna and Perugia.