Joey Alexander: Eclipse
It’s OK to stop calling Joey Alexander a prodigy now. Although he’s only 14, the Indonesian jazz pianist has already proven he isn’t a fluke. Of course, he still has a long way to go before he takes his place among the innovators, but with Eclipse , his fourth album, the thrice-Grammy-nominated musician leaps forward yet again. Most important, Alexander is emerging as a composer of note: Six of the album’s 11 tracks are his own, and they are quite often masterful. The 10-minute title track, inspired by last year’s solar eclipse, is often brooding, occasionally whimsical and quite brazen— Alexander understands the element of surprise and the importance of a challenge. He’s not a reticent player and savors the dare. The track, in short, is awe-inspiring. On “Space,” another one of his tunes, Alexander revels in dynamics—bursts of fire are followed in short order by sudden silences. As an interpreter, a role in which he’s been comfortable since his first release, he’s confident but still searching; Alexander seems to know that his versions of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” or Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” don’t cast those songs in a new light, but he’s going to give it his all anyway. It doesn’t hurt one bit that the rhythm section on Eclipse is his finest to date. Seasoned bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland are the kind of accompanists Alexander needs to kick his own development into high gear, and saxophonist Joshua Redman’s contributions on three tunes give them an extra dimension that will hopefully be explored further.