Overlook the fact that Joey Alexander is 15 years old; he is a jazz genius.
Working alongside some of the greatest living jazz musicians, Alexander has packed an immense amount of jazz mastery into his youthful years.
On Saturday evening, the Joey Alexander Trio took the stage at Longwood Gardens’ Exhibition Hall for a soldout performance as part of Longwood’s Winter Jazz Series.
Josiah Alexander Sila, professionally known as Joey Alexander, was born in Bali, Indonesia, and growing up, his parents loved playing classic jazz records in their home. When Alexander was just 6 years old, his father brought home a keyboard, and quickly he began to apply what he had listened to subconsciously since birth. Within a short span of time, the self-taught young musician learned to master legendary compositions, such as John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.”
Eventually, Alexander became introduced to Wynton Marsalis, who invited him to perform at New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and subsequently became a mentor.
Saturday evening’s performance began promptly at 8 p.m., first with the introduction of bassist Kris Funn (originally from Baltimore, Md.) and Johnathan Blake (originally from Philadelphia), who were then joined by Alexander. Acknowledging the audience and his band mates, Alexander quietly took the stage and moved into the first of his original compositions, “Mosaic of Beauty,” followed immediately by another original titled “We Here.”
When Alexander performs, he takes intense command and has full control of his music, making complicated jazz arrangements seem effortless. His unique expression and style of composition were brought fully to life during Saturday’s performance. A humble and grateful musician, Alexander extended his compliments toward his bandmates following solos and features during the set.
The evening continued with highlights including “Draw Me Nearer,” “Lonely Streets” and Joe Henderson’s classic “Inner Urge.” Alexander featured material from his latest album, "Eclipse," which was released in 2018 and received great praise across the genre.
Jazz is America’s treasure, and the world is lucky to have Alexander as one of its new great ambassadors. With the audience wanting more, the evening drew to a conclusion after an encore featuring Alexander’s original composition “Sunday Waltz.”
Longwood Gardens is a premier venue for music in the Greater Philadelphia area. Surrounded by the intoxicating smell of the flowers at Longwood, this past weekend’s performance at Exhibition Hall was like being in the Garden of Eden. Before the concert, as tradition at Longwood, concertgoers had the opportunity to walk through the conservatory to enjoy the ongoing Orchid Extravaganza, featured now through March 24.
Upcoming performances at Longwood Gardens include innovative dance ensemble PHILADANCO on Saturday, March 2; the exhilarating percussion quartet, Sō Percussion, on Thursday, March 14; and acclaimed singer-songwriter and actress Nellie McKay on Friday, April 12.
Tickets and more information can be found at longwoodgardens.org.
Marianne Gunther lives and writes in Springfield, PA.