Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk, Rudy Lu
It was a perfect summer evening, and there were plenty of young kids playing in Schenectady’s Central Park – running around, riding their bicycles, playing on the swing sets. Then there was 12-year-old Joey Alexander, who was also playing in the park. And he was swinging, too – as the headlining musician for the Music Haven’s pentultimate concert of the season. And what a concert it was…
He’s no up-and-coming “ooo-baby-baby” tween-pop star, either. The pint-sized piano prodigy’s bag is jazz, and just the day before his Electric City concert, he was playing at the most prestigious jazz fest in the land – the Newport Jazz Festival – where fans were literally climbing the walls to watch him perform selections from his sparkling debut album, My Favorite Things.
In Schenectady, the crowd filled the seats as well as the park’s natural amphitheater, and while some may have come purely out of the curiosity factor, they stayed because the Indonesian-born, NYC-based Alexander is a really good musician. Not just really good for a kid. Really good. Period.
Confidently leading his trio – featuring the skin-tight and oh-so-enthusiastic bassist Russell Hall and drummer Sammy Miller – Alexander tore through such jazz standards as Wayne Shorter’s explosive “Footprints,” Billy Strayhorn’s bittersweet “Lush Life” and Thelonious Monk’s solidly swinging “I Mean You,” which earned him a rare – and well deserved – mid-show standing ovation.