The debut album from jazz piano prodigy Joey Alexander, 2015's My Favorite Things showcases the 11-year-old's stunning keyboard virtuosity. Joining Alexander here is a mix of older and younger associates, including journeyman bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. Also backing Alexander on various tracks are bassist Russell Hall, drummer Sammy Miller, and up-and-coming firebrand trumpeter Alphonso Horne. Working with Grammy-winning producer Jason Olaine, who previously helmed albums by such jazz luminaries as Roy Hargrove, Chris Potter, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and others, Alexander delivers a handful of jazz standards and songs culled from the American Popular Songbook in adroit, acoustic, swinging fashion.
Like most such facile categorizing, 'child prodigy' usually ends up being a dead end rather than a means to explore the subject at hand. In the case of Joey Alexander, it's a disservice precisely because it's so restrictive: if he proves anything on his second album, it is that he will not be confined. Quite the contrary, the thirteen year-old pianist and composer challenges himself on multiple fronts on Countdown. He not only chooses to play with other musicians, including bassist Larry Grenadier (Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau) and saxophonist Chris Potter (Dave Douglas, Dave Holland), thereby allowing himself to assimilate technique, but he also takes the risk of involving both of them on an extended foray into Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage;" their detailed exploration of both the melody and rhythm reveals why it's so durable a composition and why the threesome are so simpatico.