Joey Alexander

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Joey Alexander
Birth nameJosiah Alexander Sila
Born (2003-06-25) 25 June 2003 (age 19)
Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Years active2012–present
LabelsMotéma, Verve

Josiah Alexander Sila[1] (born 25 June 2003),[2] known professionally as Joey Alexander, is an Indonesian jazz pianist. He became the first Indonesian musician to chart on Billboard 200 when his album My Favorite Things debuted at number 174 and then peaked at 59.[3]

Joey Alexander taught himself to play jazz at age six by listening to his father's classic jazz albums.[4] He won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Master-Jam Fest when he was nine.[1]

In 2014, Wynton Marsalis invited him to play at Jazz at Lincoln Center.[1] His first album, My Favorite Things, was released in 2015 when he was 11 years old.[1] Joey Alexander played at the Montreal and Newport Jazz Festivals in 2015 and has performed for Herbie Hancock, Bill Clinton, Wendy Kiess, and Barack Obama.

Early life[edit]

Josiah Alexander Sila was born in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, to parents Denny Sila and Farah Leonora Urbach, who ran an adventure tourism business.[1] His father was an amateur musician,[5] and both parents were fans of jazz, particularly Louis Armstrong. He is the nephew of the rock singer Nafa Urbach,[6] and the Indonesian musician and songwriter Alam Urbach. He learned about jazz by listening to classic albums his father gave him.[1][5] By age six, he had taught himself to play piano using a miniature electric keyboard his father brought home for him,[4][7] learning by ear compositions such as Thelonious Monk's "Well, You Needn't" and other songs from his father's jazz collection.[7] He later said learning the instrument came naturally to him,[4] and considers his ability "a gift from God".[7] He cites as influences John Coltrane, Harry Connick Jr., Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock, and he particularly admires Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Brad Mehldau, Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, and McCoy Tyner.[5][6]

Due to the unavailability of jazz education in his hometown,[5] Alexander participated in jam sessions in Bali and Jakarta,[1][5] where his family moved after disbanding their tourism business so he could live near Indonesia's top jazz musicians.[7] When he was eight, he played for Herbie Hancock when Hancock was visiting Jakarta as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. Hancock told Joey Alexander that he believed in him, and Alexander later called that time "the day I decided to dedicate my childhood to jazz".[1][7] At the age of nine, he won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Master-Jam Fest, an all-ages jazz competition in Odessa, Ukraine, which included 43 musicians from 17 nations.[1][5] In 2014, he and his family moved to New York City to pursue a career in music.[1]


Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, learned about Joey Alexander after a friend suggested he watch a YouTube video clip of him playing compositions by Coltrane, Monk and Chick Corea.[6][7] Marsalis praised Joey Alexander as "my hero" on his Facebook page,[1] and invited him to appear at his organization's gala in May 2014, when he was 10.[1][4] It marked Joey Alexander's United States debut.[7] He received positive reviews for his performance, particularly for his solo version of the Monk song "'Round Midnight".[1] The New York Times said he became an "overnight sensation" after the performance.[1] Allen Morrison of Down Beat magazine said of the performance: "If the word 'genius' still means anything, it applies to this prodigy. He played his own solo variations on 'Round Midnight' with a breathtaking precocity and mastery of several decades of piano style."[8] Marsalis said of him: "There has never been anyone that you can think of who could play like that at his age. I loved everything about his playing – his rhythm, his confidence, his understanding of the music."[6] Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, widow of tennis player Arthur Ashe, invited Alexander to perform at the Arthur Ashe Learning Center gala, where he played for a crowd that included former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Moutoussamy-Ashe introduced him to Gordon Uehling III, founder of the CourtSense Tennis Training Center, who allowed Alexander and his family to stay at his estate in Alpine, New Jersey.[1]

Joey Alexander played at A Great Night in Harlem at the Apollo Theater, a performance honoring Herbie Hancock. His performance at the University of the District of Columbia garnered viral attention on the internet, drawing more than 500,000 views on Facebook.[5] He also played in a concert with students of the Juilliard School, the proceeds of which funded his continuing stay in New York City. The concert, which received national media attention on NBC News, was successful enough for him to obtain an O-1B visa, which is granted to "individuals with extraordinary ability".[5][7] He also gave concert performances in 2014 at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival and the International Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta.[5]

Joey Alexander's debut album, My Favorite Things, was released on 12 May 2015, on the Harlem-based label Motéma Music and produced by Jason Olaine. He was 11 at the time of its release.[1][5] He began recording the album in October 2014.[7] He arranged all the songs on the album, which includes renditions of "'Round Midnight", Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life". It also includes an original composition called "Ma Blues", which was inspired by Bobby Timmons's "Moanin'".[6][7] My Favorite Things featured Alexander alongside Russell Hall, Alphonso Horne, and Sammy Miller, as well as guest performers Larry Grenadier and Ulysses Owens.[5] He had several performances in 2015, including one at the Montreal International Jazz Festival,[6][7] and another at the Newport Jazz Festival in August.[1] Newport producer George Wein is reluctant to sign alleged child prodigies, but made an exception after Moutoussamy-Ashe took Joey Alexander to Wein's Manhattan apartment to play for him. Wein said he distinguished himself with "the maturity of his harmonic approach".[6][7] Jazz at Lincoln Center has expressed interest in incorporating Joey Alexander into its educational outreach efforts, hoping to encourage young people to listen to jazz music.[1]

In February 2016, Joey Alexander was a runner-up through his nomination for the Grammy AwardsBest Jazz Instrumental Album (for My Favorite Things) and Best Improvised Jazz Solo (for "Giant Steps"). He performed live at the Premiere Ceremony, the pre-telecast ceremony at the Grammy Awards.[9]

In September 2016, Joey Alexander released his second album, Countdown (Motéma Music, 2016), named after the John Coltrane track.[10] The album featured his trio of Dan Chmielinski and Ulysses Owens, augmented by bassist Larry Grenadier and saxophonist Chris Potter.[11][12]

On 28 April 2017, Joey Alexander made his debut appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.[13]

September 2017 saw the release of Alexander's third album, titled Joey. Monk. Live! (Motéma Music, 2017), is a collection of seven songs by Thelonious Monk recorded live at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room in June 2017, released concurrently with his nomination as Music Scholar by the T. Washington Scholars program in August.[14]

His fourth album, titled Eclipse (Motéma Music, 2018), was released on 5 May 2018.[15]

On 18 August 2018, Joey Alexander performed at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.[16]


As leader[edit]

  • My Favorite Things (Motéma, 2015)
  • Countdown (Motéma, 2016)
  • Joey.Monk.Live! (Motéma, 2017)
  • Eclipse (Motéma, 2018)
  • Warna (Verve, 2020)
  • Origin (Mack Avenue, 2022)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammy Awards[17]

Year Category Work Result
2016 Best Improvised Jazz Solo "Giant Steps" Nominated
Best Jazz Instrumental Album My Favorite Things Nominated
2017 Best Improvised Jazz Solo "Countdown" Nominated

Panasonic Gobel Awards

Year Category Work Result
2016 Special Events "Special Interview Joey Alexander with Najwa Shihab" Nominated

Anugerah Musik Indonesia

Year Category Work Result
2018 Best Jazz Instrumental Artist "Moment's Notice" Won


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Chinen, Nate (12 May 2015). "Joey Alexander, an 11-Year-Old Jazz Sensation, Who Hardly Clears the Piano's Sightlines". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 15 May 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  2. ^ Regen, Jon (13 May 2015). "Joey Alexander, 12-year-old jazz piano prodigy". Keyboard. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Joey Alexander Billboard Chart History". Billboard. 30 May 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "10-Year-Old Piano Prodigy From Indonesia Takes New York By Storm". WCBS-TV. 7 May 2014. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Joey Alexander". Newport Jazz Festival. 2015. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Chilton, Martin (13 May 2015). "The 11-year-old taking jazz world by storm". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "11-Year-Old Indonesian Jazz Piano Prodigy Releases Debut CD". The New York Times. Associated Press. 12 May 2015. Archived from the original on 24 June 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Jazz at Lincoln Center's Annual Gala Charms With an Evening of Inspired Riffs". Down Beat. 5 May 2015. Archived from the original on 12 July 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  9. ^ "12-Year-Old Pianist Joey Alexander Receives Standing Ovation At 2016 Grammys – Jazz Line News". 16 February 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  10. ^ Jenkins, Nash (6 October 2016). "Meet the 13-Year-Old Jazz Musician Who Was Nominated For a Grammy". Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  11. ^ Chinen, Nate (7 July 2016). "Jazz Pianist Joey Alexander Turns 13 and Debuts New Song 'City Lights'". New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  12. ^ Fordam, John (10 November 2016). "Joey Alexander: Countdown review – 13-year-old prodigy has an old jazz soul". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  13. ^ "New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - April 23 - May 3, 2020 - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Joey Alexander". 29 September 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  15. ^ "Joey Alexander". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Joey Alexander Bawakan Melati Suci di Opening Ceremony Asian Games 2018, Warganet Terharu - ShowBiz". 18 August 2018. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Past Winners Search".

External links[edit]