Young Indonesian jazz piano prodigy releases CD

By Charles J. Gans, AP

NEW YORK –Joey Alexander’s favorite things include the Avengers, SpongeBob and Thelonious Monk. He’s a normal 11-year-old kid who just happens to be a jazz piano prodigy from Indonesia and has already impressed such jazz luminaries as Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock.

This week, Alexander released his debut CD, ��My Favorite Things,�� making a statement on the opening track with a 10-minute-plus version of John Coltrane’s harmonically challenging ��Giant Steps.�� He also displays a sensitive touch on ballads such as Billy Strayhorn’s ��Lush Life�� and Monk’s ��’Round Midnight.��

Not only did he arrange all the tunes, but he also wrote an original composition, ��Ma Blues,�� inspired by Bobby Timmons’ jazz classic ��Moanin.’��

��For me jazz is a calling. I love jazz because it’s about freedom to express yourself and being spontaneous, full of rhythm and full of improvisation,�� said the mop-topped pianist, who barely tops 4 1/2 feet and weighs about 80 pounds, in a recent interview.

��Technique is important, but for me first when I play it’s from the heart and feeling the groove.��

Alexander made his U.S. debut in May 2014 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual gala where performed a solo version of ��’Round Midnight.��

Marsalis, JALC’s artistic director, brought him over from Indonesia after a friend insisted that he watch a YouTube clip of the 10-year-old performing tunes by Coltrane, Monk and Chick Corea.

��There has never been anyone that you can think of who could play like that at his age,�� Marsalis said. ��I loved everything about his playing �X his rhythm, his confidence, his understanding of the music.��