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Joey Alexander Does What 11 y.o. Shouldn't Be Able on 'My Favorite Things'

by Ryan Book   May 22, 2015 11:18 AM EDT

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Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of. This week we look at 'My Favorite Things,' the debut album of jazz piano prodigy Joey Alexander.

Week of 05/22/2015
WHO: Joey Alexander
WHAT: My Favorite Things
SPOT: 174

You often hear about the "feel" of an instrument. It's not just casual crap that music writers throw around...the ability of to project different sensations from an instrument is possibly a skill or possibly a talent. Many have argued for the former, suggesting that the emotions that bluesmen drag from their guitars or that a horn player can emit from a trumpet is the result of a lifetime of playing experience, and a lifetime of living experience at that.

Joey Alexander, a prodigious piano player of Indonesian descent, suggests that some people can be born with that feel. At age 11, he has certainly not been alive long enough to justify the soulful experience that he exacts from the keyboard on his first album, My Favorite Things.

The title track might attract the eye, thanks to its familiar title, but the brilliance of Alexander can be grasped best during the opening number, "Giant Steps," where he quite literally walks in the wake of jazz giants. The song was composed by John Coltrane in 1960...and although it would be unfair to compare the young pianist to one of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century, the ten-plus minute interpretation of the saxophonist's classic reflects much more than a student carefully copying the works of a master, but rather an interpretation that's both carefully organized and spontaneous.

Alexander is the real deal. Expect to see him in concert halls for years to come, and for young players in 55 years to be playing his eventual compositions.

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