Joey Alexander

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The following is an extract from a review I wrote three years ago.

Joey Alexander @ Goethe Haus 30.8.13
Friend and I arrived in plenty of time, thinking that the wunderkid would start on time because his bedtime is earlier than ours. The auditorium was packed, quite unlike previous times for Serambi Jazz gigs at Goethe Haus, and we felt lucky to grab a couple of seats at the very back of the balcony. There were camera crews and cell phones a-plenty around us. We realised from the number of family groups that this wasn’t a typical jazz audience. The curiosity factor of witnessing a prodigy perform plus, perhaps for some, an element of reflected glory had created a frisson of expectation.

On the stage below was a grand piano to the left, and a set of drums to the right. After a thankfully brief introduction, the group, lead by little Joey, entered from backstage right and took their places. Donny Sundjoyo (of Riza Arshad’s 3scape) stood in the centre behind his double bass and a music stand, while Elfa Zulham, Donny’s bandmate in The Jongens Quartet) sat behind his drums.

The first number, as in the next two, started with Joey vamping away, possibly on a Thelonius Monk tune. I couldn’t tell, nor could I care, because the sheer inventiveness of his playing swept me away, with barely a glance at the raised foot rests which enabled him to use the pedals. Then the bass and drums started and, hey, it was bebop.

The second number got me mentally comparing Joey’s improvisational skills to Keith Jarrett, a long inventive muse which came from … but where does a kid get it from? Good jazz is a matter of soul, of feeling the moment. Is it played for oneself and friends, or for an audience? The latter may be commercially better, but the best jazz audiences are swept away, not with recognition – oh, I’ve got the CD – but with the groove of unexplored paths. Good jazz is the unexpected, the interplay – the calls and responses of the fellowship of like minds in tune with each other.


IndoJazzia could not go to 12 year old Joey’s well-publicised ‘homecoming’ gig on Sunday (22nd), his “biggest ever concert in Indonesia“. Now resident in the USA he was supported by the legendary drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts and former bass prodigy Dan Chmielinski

At the time of writing, no reviews or videos can be found online, but IndoJazzia has no doubt that it was a memorable gig: all three musicians will have been ‘in tune’.

Actress Marcella Zalianty was there, and she was “impressed” by his performance. However, as reported in today’s Jakarta Post, she told that “Joey’s achievements as an Indonesian musician representing the country in the global music industry” made her proud.

No, Marcella, he was not representing the country. Joey and indeed all musicians represent themselves each time they play. You too only represented yourself, but your talent is for making vacuous statements to support your fifteen minutes of fame.

Joey is on his own personal growth path, as are singer Dira Sugandi (Elfa Zulham’s wife) and bassist Barry Likumahuwa who joined Joey for a number (or two…?)

And that gives us another reason to post this video of how empathetic musicians such as Barry L. have guided Joey’s early steps on his path to …?


In July 2014, ‘little’ Joey Alexander, who needs no introduction, played a number of sets at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2014.

Song list (and writers) :
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein II)
Eclypso (Tommy Flanagan)
Lush Life (Billy Strayhorn)
Inner Urge (Joe Henderson)
Contemplation From A Mountain Top (Niels Lan Doky)
Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk)
Giant Steps (John Coltrane)
It Might As Well Be Spring (Richard Rogers)
Cherokee (Ray Noble)

This is the video of the set

And here is the downloadable audio.