Culture

Jazz, Joy and a Virtuoso Named Joey

by Wendy Sy Photographed by FRANK STEWART
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
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Music knows no age when pianist Joey Alexander hits the keys. At just 13 years old, the three-time Grammy nominated Bali native performed in the ‘Round Midnight: Monk’s Legacy program last Friday night at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room. 

As part of the Ertegun Jazz Concert Series, the line up included two performances dedicated to the legendary music of the late Thelonious Monk, who would have turned 100 this year. Alexander headlined the second show at 9:30pm with Scott Colley on bass and Willie Jones III on drums.

“Personally, Monk inspired me to play piano. He makes it look not so difficult, but it is,” Alexander said on stage. Without a single sheet of music, he knows the compositions like the back of his hand, playing with joy and often bursting a smile between notes. 

Alexander’s talent was discovered at age six. His interest in jazz stemmed from the record collection of his father (also a musician) and they soon began going to jam sessions together in Bali and Jakarta. A series of opportunities then opened up for the wunderkind who made his U.S. debut in 2014 when Jazz at Lincoln Center’s managing and artistic director Wynton Marsalis invited him to play at its annual gala in Rose Theater.

Currently based in New York City, Alexander balances between schoolwork via online classes and practicing music two to three hours a day. For this particular performance based on Monk’s work, the three performers had just one rehearsal leading up to the big night, yet there was a synergy on stage that would make you think otherwise. 



2017 marks Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 30th anniversary season. Over the years, the organization has become a vital advocate for jazz, culture and arts education globally. In celebration of the milestone, there will be 30 unique concert programs opening in September and running through next June.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual artistic, educational and archival programs are supported by contributors including Mica Ertegun, Larry GagosianBeth Rudin DeWoody, Sarah Arison, Patricia Blanchet, Mary Ann OklessonBonnie and Daniel Tisch, The Hilaria and Alec Baldwin Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Rockefeller Foundation.

“As musicians, we’re here to share our gift with the world,” Alexander tells AVENUE after the show. “Like Monk’s work, it never stops…it evolves.”

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