We were absolutely awed when we first heard about Joey Alexander, a young Indonesian jazz prodigy who is considered as one of the rising stars of the international jazz scene and one of the genre’s most promising performers to come around in a long time.
Having recently released his first album, ‘My Favorite Things’, Joey, age 12, can now boast another achievement many prominent musicians work decades to try and achieve.
Joey was recently nominated for two Grammy awards, one for ‘Best Improvised Jazz Solo’ and one for ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Album’. It’s all the more impressive considering that there are only five Grammy award categories for jazz and Joey was nominated for the only 2 he was eligible for.
Joey’s nomination means that he is one of the youngest Grammy nominees ever, joining the ranks of Michael Jackson (who was 12 when he received his first nomination) and Zac Hanson (of “MMMBop” fame, also 12 when first nominated).
But should he win a Grammy, Joey would become the youngest individual Grammy winner of all time. The current record holder is LeAnn Rimes, who won two awards when she was 14.
Joey was born in Bali, where his parents ran a tourism business. He first showed a natural aptitude for jazz music after he listened to his father’s Thelonious Monk albums and was able to pick out the tunes on an electric mini keyboard without any training. His father, an amateur pianist, taught him some basics and Joey quickly soaked it all up.
Joey soo began jamming with some of Bali’s jazz musicians and his parents saw his skills grow exponentially. Giving up their tourism business, the family then moved to Jakarta so Joey could be exposed to the capital’s top talents.
The young prodigy’s skills were quickly recognized, and at the age of 8, Joey was given the honor of playing for jazz piano legend Herbie Hancock at an event in Jakarta.
Jazz luminary Wynton Marsalis, the director of Jazz at New York’s Lincoln Center, invited Joey to play at the Lincoln Center’s annual gala after watching a YouTube clip of the 10-year-old playing songs by John Coltrane and Monk.
“There has never been anyone that you can think of who could play like that at his age. I loved everything about his playing — his rhythm, his confidence, his understanding of the music,” Marsalis told the Associated Press.
His performance at Lincoln Center made Joey a star in the jazz world, and he quickly gained the support of some of New York’s most-talented musicians. The US Government recently granted him and his family an O-1 visa (for “individuals with extraordinary ability”) so that he could pursue his jazz career in the Big Apple.
Watching the videos of his performances, it’s clear that Joey has skill beyond his years. But experienced musicians who have played with him say that, unlike many prodigies, Joey has not come by his skills through rote memorization and formal training, but through a sincere love of the music.
In a recent interview, Joey said: “For me, jazz is a calling. I love jazz because it’s about freedom to express yourself and being spontaneous, full of rhythm and full of improvisation.”
We hope Joey can make history and do us all proud by winning the Grammys on February 15, 2016. Beyond that, we hope this one-of-a-kind genius will never stop enthralling the world with his music.