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Nov. 30, 2018 | Lauren Onkey — When a baby grand piano rolls into the office for a Tiny Desk concert, you expect something special. But none of us could have imagined what it’s like to see 15-year old Joey Alexander play that piano with such mastery. The thing is, when you see him play live, you quickly forget his age and get lost in the intense focus of his performance. Alexander and his stellar supporting cast — Reuben Rogers on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums — form a tight trio, locking eyes as Alexander’s compositions unfold. The relaxed, seasoned veterans looked thrilled to be playing with Alexander at the Tiny Desk, and he was clearly inspired playing with them. The crowd was both mesmerized and humbled by the memories of what they were doing at 15.
Born in Indonesia, Alexander learned to play by listening to his father’s jazz albums. When he was just 10-years old, Wynton Marsalis invited him to play at a Jazz at Lincoln Center gala, and the young Alexander set the jazz world buzzing. He made his mark covering classics by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, but he’s now recording and performing more of his own compositions. He showcased that original work during his Tiny Desk performance. Alexander’s vigorously rhythmic playing was playful in the opening “Eclipse” (from his latest album of the same name), which he described as “spontaneous playing.” “Bali,” also from Eclipse, followed, while “City Lights” (from his 2016 album Countdown) closed a set that ranks among the year’s finest jazz performances at the Tiny Desk.
Producers: Suraya Mohamed, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski, Bronson Arcuri; Editor: Kaylee Domzalski; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR