Home > Culture > Jazz boy genius Joey Alexander on the best way to practice music and his go-to album
Jazz boy genius Joey Alexander on the best way to practice music and his go-to album

This coming long weekend, Indonesian jazz piano player Joey Alexander and his touring band will be performing at Carlyle & Co. in a special four-day performance. Jazz lovers who aren’t part of the members-only club, worry not — the performances are open to the public at the club’s live music venue Café Carlyle.

It isn’t every day that one gets to meet a musical wunderkind. Nineteen-year-old Joey Alexander Sila, known simply as Joey Alexander, taught himself how to play jazz at the ripe old age of six. However, when we asked him about it, he was quick to credit his father. “My parents kind of helped me out,” he says. His father was a music lover who was a guitar and piano player. Unlike many classical instrument virtuosos who may have owed part of their success to over-zealous parents, Joey Alexander’s parents viewed piano as more of a hobby than a viable career path. Fast-forward three years, Joey Alexander bagged the Grand Prix award at the Master-Jam Fest — an international jazz improvisation competition — when he was nine years old. Since then, Joey Alexander has gone on to perform for the likes of Herbie Hancock, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton.  

Though he’s played in Hong Kong and other countries in the Asia-Pacific previously, Joey Alexander is truly touring Asia for the first time this year. He and his touring band will be stopping in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and his home country of Indonesia. In our conversation below, Joey Alexander speaks to Lifestyle Asia about his all-time favourite musicians, spirituality, and his upcoming performances at Carlyle & Co. from 24-27 May. Email hongkong.cafecarlyle@carlyleandco.com to purchase your tickets this weekend. 

Joey Alexander

Have you been to Hong Kong before? 

Yes. I’m looking forward to coming back and playing some music from my original albums and share some new music, playing at Carlyle & Co.  

What are you looking forward to doing in Hong Kong? 

Whenever I go to a place I always like to try the local food. Especially in HK, it’s a food hub. So I’m looking forward to trying the local food. Actually, I also happen to be doing an Asian tour. So Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, a festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is where I’m from.  

What country are you looking forward to visiting the most on your Asia tour?  

Definitely Hong Kong. Spend more time, because last time I was there it was a short visit.  

Do you have a fond memory when you were a kid teaching yourself how to play the piano?  

I would say it wasn’t just myself. My parents kind of helped me out. Most importantly my dad, he’s a music lover and he played guitar and piano. My parents never really pushed me or even saw this as a career for me. I didn’t think this was a career for me at first, it was more like an interest, you know, performing in front of people gave me the love of playing and I try to carry that love with me to this day. I am thankful that my parents discovered me at an early age, I would say it’s a god-given talent.  

Do you have a favourite performance that you’ve done recently?  

I get asked this a lot. [laughs] I would say, on a big scale and small scale, it’s all the same to me. Every piece of music speaks to me. And I would say the musicians are the most important to me. They speak to me in a different way wherever I go.  

How did this performance at Carlyle & Co. come about?  

You never know when opportunity knocks! It’s my first time performing there. I’m bringing musicians, so I have a trio – John Davis who will be playing drums, Chis Farr on bass.  

If you could only listen to three musicians for the rest of your life, who would it be?  

Probably Miles Davis. The level of – how he draws people to his sound, the atmosphere, that speaks volumes of the personality that Miles Davis’ music has.  

Who would the other two be?  

I listen to all kinds of music so. Probably the only one I can think of is Michael Jackson.  

Is there an album you’d recommend for those just getting to know jazz and also longtime lovers of jazz?  

I would say Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, that’s my go-to. It speaks to people, even non-jazz listeners.  

Do you have any rituals that you do before every performance?  

I wouldn’t say ritual, but before every performance, I always say a prayer before every performance we do. I’m a Christian actually. So it’s really important for me, I don’t really see it as a ritual, it’s more of a spiritual thing.  

If not piano, what would you pick as your main instrument?  

Probably drums. [laughs] I get asked this too, a lot. My dad used to play guitar, so I always loved the sound of the guitar. Piano is a percussive instrument, that’s why I mentioned drums. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t play piano. Considering that piano is the hardest instrument to play, so I try to be good at it [laughs].  

If you were not a musician, what do you think you would be doing?  

I don’t know what I would do without music. Music opens doors, that’s the reason why I play music. I think everybody would say the same thing, you can’t really live or breathe without music. Same thing with sports. It takes years of dedication and learning. In the process, I learned to enjoy the process. To me, the work is worth it for me to do what I do.  

What are you listening to at the moment?  

At times, when I’m performing a lot of music, I shut down and don’t listen to music too much.  

Do you have any advice for people learning to play piano?  

We all have different approaches when it comes to practice. To me personally, I try to focus on one aspect of what I’m working on, so I would say don’t overthink. Just enjoy the process. It goes for everything — just enjoy the process. 

Jazz boy genius Joey Alexander on the best way to practice music and his go-to album

Vanessa Lee

Managing Editor

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