With Verve debut Warna, Joey Alexander proves he’s the real deal

What does it feel like to have the world tell you you’re a one-of-a-kind musical wonder at the age of 11?

For that answer, we should ask Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander. Five years ago, when he was still a preteen, the pianist was touted as jazz’s second coming. He had unbelievable technique and a deep, soulful relationship to material that was written 50 to 100 years before he was born. He was invited by Wynton Marsalis to come to New York. Then came Grammy nominations and a profile on 60 Minutes.

Sometimes, the hype can start to outweigh the artistry. Can you live up to the expectation? Can you overcome the characterization as a child prodigy — a musician that makes people say, “Look at that little kid play” — and develop a viable career as an artistic force in your own right?

Well, here we are. Now at the age of 16, Joey Alexander has just released his fifth recording, Warna, and with it he’s rewritten the terms of his fame.

Warna, which means “colour” in Alexander’s native Indonesian language, is his debut with Verve. Filled with original compositions, the album shows a true gift. Melodic and bright, Alexander’s writing is a wonderful combination of youth, culture and talent. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Kendrick Scott make up the trio and lend their touches.

Warna a terrific listen from an artist that, by all accounts, is here to stay.


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