Portrait of a jazzman

Joey Alexander at 11 years old

From the album “My Favorite Things”

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It’s popular to fret about the future of jazz.

While it’s true things need to be taken care of if they’re going to survive and thrive, we’ve also got to acknowledge that jazz and the love of jazz is rooted deeply in many people’s souls. As long as we’re breathing, the music will survive.

Bassist and author Bill Crow quoted something funny to me the other day: “Will people stop playing jazz? Will people stop playing chess? No, because it’s fun!”

Linguist Noam Chomsky theorized that human beings come “hard wired” with the ability to learn language. I’d take that a step further and say they also come “hard wired” with the ability to appreciate and create improvised music.

When a six year old in Jakarta, Indonesia learns jazz by pecking out Thelonious Monk tunes on the family piano, you know it’s got to be true.

Jazz, born in the US, created by men and women of shimmering talent and dedication, is now a global art available to anyone with the heart and soul and guts for it.

Here’s the story of this musician:

1. Joey Alexander was born in Bali

2. His father Denny Sila accumulated a collection of jazz CDs while studying in the US at Pace University in Manhattan. He probably got them at J & R Music World 🙂

3. Denny who is an amateur pianist taught him some fundamentals, but most of Joey’s education came from records and YouTube.

4. Joey started showing up at jam sessions in Bali and the Djakarta and when he was eight met Herbie Hancock who was touring the country at the time. Alexander says that meeting and Hancock’s encouragement is what inspired him to “dedicate my childhood to jazz.”

You wish that people like Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong could have lived long enough to see the results of what their genius and dedication set in motion.

This record can be found here:


Video Created by Yasunari Rowan/yasrowan.com


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