Review: Joey Alexander Becomes More Than A Prodigy On 'Warna' Piano prodigy Joey Alexander is a fixture of the jazz world at the age of 16 and his new album shows how his sound has matured and grown into graceful original compositions.
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On 'Warna,' Joey Alexander Transforms From Child Prodigy To Jazz Fixture

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On 'Warna,' Joey Alexander Transforms From Child Prodigy To Jazz Fixture

Review

Music Reviews

On 'Warna,' Joey Alexander Transforms From Child Prodigy To Jazz Fixture

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander was just 11 years old when he burst onto the jazz scene in 2015.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY ALEXANDER'S "IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING")

CORNISH: He had seemingly limitless technique and a deep understanding of songs written decades before he was born. Since then, Alexander has released five albums. His latest is called "Warna," which means color in his native language. Tom Moon has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY ALEXANDER'S "IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING")

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Sooner or later, every child prodigy hits that fork in the road - keep on doing the crowd-pleasing, trained-seal tricks that brought fame or set out to develop a more individual sound. Joey Alexander, who's now a fixture in the jazz world at age 16, is clearly charting his own path.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY ALEXANDER'S "WARNA")

MOON: Alexander's new album is different from everything he's released before. It's way less showy, more settled down. The emphasis is on his original compositions, which have broadly singable, surprisingly approachable melodies and grooves that slide and saunter far from typical swing.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY ALEXANDER'S "DOWNTIME")

MOON: Joining the pianist is bassist Larry Grenadier, who was featured on Alexander's first album, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Jazz trios can take months or years to develop an identity. This group came together for a run of performances right before the recording session. And yet, they sound fully connected. They move in effortless agreement, responding to each other with head-spinning quickness.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY ALEXANDER'S "INNER URGE")

MOON: Joey Alexander can still dispense dazzling, impossibly inventive runs when he wants to. It's just not his primary game anymore. On this new album, he brings out the graceful contours and shapes of his original songs; songs that have a thoughtful, old-man wisdom to them. Alexander might be stuck with that whiz-kid prodigy tag for a while longer, but his new record shows that his transformation into an artist - with no asterisks - is well underway.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY ALEXANDER'S "LONELY STREETS")

CORNISH: The latest album from pianist Joey Alexander is called "Warna." Our reviewer was Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOEY ALEXANDER'S "LONELY STREETS")

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