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At 13, pianist Joey Alexander heads back to the Grammys

Associated Press logo Associated Press 1/31/2017 By MESFIN FEKADU, AP Music Writer
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2016 file photo, Joey Alexander poses for a portrait in New York. Alexander is nominated for a Grammy Award for best improvised jazz solo with “Countdown” at the Feb. 12 show, airing live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2016 file photo, Joey Alexander poses for a portrait in New York. Alexander is nominated for a Grammy Award for best improvised jazz solo with “Countdown” at the Feb. 12 show, airing live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Joey Alexander, the 13-year-old jazz pianist, broke ground after scoring two Grammy nominations last year, though he walked away from the ceremony empty-handed.

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2016 file photo, Joey Alexander poses for a portrait in New York. Alexander is nominated for a Grammy Award for best improvised jazz solo with “Countdown” at the Feb. 12 show, airing live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2016 file photo, Joey Alexander poses for a portrait in New York. Alexander is nominated for a Grammy Award for best improvised jazz solo with “Countdown” at the Feb. 12 show, airing live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File)

This year, he has another chance to win.

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2016 file photo, Joey Alexander poses for a portrait in New York. Alexander is nominated for a Grammy Award for best improvised jazz solo with “Countdown” at the Feb. 12 show, airing live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2016 file photo, Joey Alexander poses for a portrait in New York. Alexander is nominated for a Grammy Award for best improvised jazz solo with “Countdown” at the Feb. 12 show, airing live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File)

He's nominated for best improvised jazz solo with "Countdown" at the Feb. 12 show, airing live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Alexander said he was "thankful" for his Grammy nominations last year, but it was more special to perform on the live telecast and help bring jazz to a stage dominated by pop music.

"I'm very happy to share my music, and not just my music, but the music of jazz that maybe people haven't heard about," he said.

Alexander, who is Indonesian, has performed on a number of stages along with the Grammys, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Newport Jazz Festival and the White House.

"Countdown" is the title track from Alexander's sophomore album, released last year. His competition at the Grammys includes John Scofield, Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch and Ravi Coltrane, son of the late jazz icon John Coltrane.

Alexander said recording an album was more comfortable the second time around and that it enhanced his skills as a performer. "I think it's really a blessing for me to be in the studio because ... I think it made me a better a musician."

Like his 2015 debut album, "My Favorite Things," ''Countdown" also reached No. 1 on Billboard's jazz albums chart. The new album also includes three original Alexander compositions.

"Being original isn't really that easy and it took me awhile to get the music together. I'm really thankful that the people enjoy it, people enjoy my compositions and even when I play it onstage, people dig it."

Alexander, who is in the fifth grade and takes classes online, says he practices piano about two or three hours each day. Though he is heavily influenced by acts like Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, he's a fan of genres outside of jazz.

"I still love Michael Jackson. I love his music, his soul," said Alexander. "Of course, James Brown. And gospel I will listen to: Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, all those great singers."

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