Joey Alexander Trio
Joey Alexander Trio
Joey Alexander Trio
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
January 27, 2018
by Joe Major
The dividends of Joey Alexander’s music are realized immediately. Saturday night at the venerable Troy Savings Bank Music Hall his program, weighted with originals, was deftly arranged to release the ebullient pianist’s innate sparkle. Teamed with bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Justin Faulkner, the trio parlayed their airtight cohesion into a tune selection that was rich in narrative and dynamic arc.
Alexander delved into an expansive toolbox. He hammered and sculpted and used a fine pointillist brush for melodic insinuation. Numbers that began with smoldering contemplation followed a path that inevitably felt lucid and triumphant. And when shards of dissonance sprang up, they lent the pieces an informed depth and authority.
The defining lines that emanated from the rolling, rousing passages, as well as the introspective meditations, created a lucid landscape. There was a captivating sense of uplift in their cathedral of chords.
The trio opened with “Bali,” an Alexander original that swayed with ringing buoyancy in both high and low registers, and aided by splashy cymbal work, was awash in an atmosphere of light, rhythmic, gear shifting responsiveness.
Next came a Coltrane romp, “Moment’s Notice,” that rippled and drove hard, accented with staccato bass work, a full drum smorgasbord, and clever stops and rests that captioned the theme of the number. Alexander’s lead lines emerged from the swirling fray unscathed, like triumphant spring crocuses.
“City Lights” began with a stark noir-ish statement, grew into a determined single-note propulsive cadence, and swelled even further until Alexander had to literally stand up, all the better to leverage emphatic triplets, all the better to evoke the aura of metro night life. The way in which the initial tension was transformed into free-ranging manageability was nothing short of astute tune craft.
Another original followed. “Faithful” found Moffett plucking below the bridge, and strumming and sliding in cello-like articulated resonance. He ushered the trio into a hallowed, processional setting. One could hear the vow, the sacred-sounding contract, that Alexander forged as he again stood for emphasis. His surge and repose technique, together with Faulkner’s well stocked larder of tasty fills, runs and outbursts, highlighted a reverent bond, an adherence, a sheer universal faithfulness.
On Monk’s “‘Round Midnight,” Alexander’s opening soliloquy elicited the angular examination of barely resolved anguish. He milked the sharp plinky specter of anticipation and the exasperated reconciliation of evening’s crest, while Moffett and Faulkner crept around on little bass and drum feet.
Alexander’s “Space” was an exercise in trio unity, a sine wave-precise excursion. After launching a passage that sought to define time and space the trio explored riff-routes that warped that very template. The hyper syncopation and skewed tempos left a listener to decide if it was outer space being tweaked, or the mutable nature of personal space.
Initially another lilting, boxing of the compass, “Sunday Waltz” began as a serene index, a consideration, a lyrical ramble with just the merest hint of subterranean stride piano. Parsed out in increasingly confident and affirmative declensions of jazz grammar, the group ratcheted to a climactic lock step before throttling back down to a gentle landing.
The thoroughly enthralled audience wouldn’t let them leave without an encore, and the group responded with Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo.” Moffett, fresh rosin in hand, became bow-tastic and strum-tastic, and Faulkner took us on one last tour de drum kit. Alexander jumped in with what have become signature hot-handed, up-tempo keyboard calisthenics and tidied things up in a crisp clipped knot. Good night!
Approachable. Elastic. Evocative. The program was a revelation. In much the same way that the compositions reflected Joey Alexander’s effervescence, so too did they portend classics in the making. That notion was unavoidable. They struck lasting notes that reverberated in the acoustic sweet spot of the august hall and in the emotional circuitry of this attendee.
Joe Major is an inveterate jazz pilgrim for whom the holy grail is always the evocative communion of impression meeting expression. Living over the border in Williamstown, MA, for thirty-plus years, he’s been the grateful beneficiary of countless Williams College performances that have arranged themselves on his ever shifting life list.