If you happened to be wandering the streets of upper Manhattan one night this winter, you could have stumbled onto a video shoot for pianist Joey Alexander.
The video — for a version of “Moment’s Notice,” by John Coltrane — features an intepretive performance by dancer Jared Grimes, with Joey and a boombox on the sidelines.
The director is Yas Rowan, who has worked on several of Joey’s previous videos. He came up with the premise for the shoot after considering a suggestion from Joey’s father and manager, Denny Sila. “I knew all we needed was the right dancer, and the right location, after that everything would come together, and it did,” Rowan says. “Jared was a no-brainer. He had the right style, the right look, and he had the talent. He was perfect. He liked the piece, he wasn't intimidated by the idea of improvising, and he was very excited about the whole project.”
“The location was a bit more difficult,” Rowan adds. “I spent a couple of days trekking all over the city to find the right spot.” What he settled on was a spot beneath Riverside Drive, where an overpass connects Manhattanville to Hamilton Heights.
Rowan’s direction to Grimes was minimal. “My goal was to get him to feel and not overthink,” he says. “Once I explained to him that Lindy hop was just the platform, and that he was free to use any style he need to express the music, he took off with it, and he nailed it. 100% improvised. He didn't even get the cut of the song until the night before. And it was freezing that night. He was a real trouper.”
As for the music that Grimes is responding to, it’s a track from Joey Alexander’s fourth album, Eclipse, which was released on Motéma earlier this month. The album, which marks a clear step forward for Joey as an artist, mainly features him at the helm of a trio with Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. On three tracks, Joshua Redman joins on tenor saxophone.
The choice of track is in keeping with Joey’s trajectory: “Moment’s Notice” is precisely the sort of obstacle course he has favored on past albums. He famously tackled Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” on his 2015 debut, My Favorite Things (which is also, by extension, a nod to the John Coltrane Quartet). “Countdown,” another Trane workout, is the title track of Joey’s second album, from 2016. And last fall saw the digital-only release of Joey.Monk.Live! — a collection of Thelonious Monk compositions, almost all of which Coltrane played in Monk’s band.
Eclipse is out now on Motéma; stream or download here. The Joey Alexander Trio performs at the Jazz Standard on June 5, and at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J. on June 9. For more tour dates and information, visit his website.