Joey Alexander’s “Eclipse,” released on May 4, is a nostalgic, beautiful jazz album with dynamic original compositions and reimagined classics in spades.
On his third studio album, Alexander, a 15-year-old Grammy-nominated pianist, collaborates with drummer Eric Harland, bassist Reuben Rogers and Joshua Redman on tenor saxophone.
Alexander wears his influences on his sleeve throughout the album by reviving jazz classics and transforming hymns into jazz songs.
On “Draw Me Nearer,” Alexander repurposes a plodding hymn written by Francis J. Crosby into a smooth, lovely song, transforming its vocals into a playful piano melody. The drums and bass keep a simple beat throughout the track, creating the perfect foundation for Alexander’s lively performance.
Joey Alexander’s jazz covers of traditional songs follow in the footsteps of greats like John Coltrane, who Alexander pays homage to in the next track, “Moment’s Notice.” The trio of Alexander, Rogers and Harland perfectly adapt Coltrane’s original brass-heavy nine-minute odyssey, transforming it into a concise, piano driven track. The way the trio plays together, breaking in with bursts of energy in between each other’s highlights, makes this track an absolute joy.
Although Alexander’s covers are consistently creative and beautiful, his original compositions are what make this album an impressive artistic statement.
“Faithful” instantly establishes its groove with a warm, relentless bassline as Joshua Redman joins the band with his tenor sax. Eric Harland’s light, stuttering drum fills add character and impact to Alexander’s solo in the song’s second half. Although “Faithful” does not have a melody as strong as the opener’s, the track gradually evolves into a fully developed, layered composition.
The album’s closer, “Peace,” channels the cozy nostalgia of Vince Giraldi’s score for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The inviting instrumentation hardly develops dynamically or stylistically throughout, but its subtlety helps it feel more like a lullaby. The soft cymbals and bright piano chords at the song’s finale are a perfect send-off for this gem of an album.
“Eclipse” is not daring or experimental, but every jazz fan should hear this latest artistic victory from one of the genre’s youngest, most promising faces.