“Joe Alterman is a breath of fresh air on the music scene. I love hearing him play! It’s happy music with tasty meat on the bones! He covers all the vases creatively, rhythmically and harmonically, and his playing is destined to reach a wide, wide audience.” – Ramsey Lewis
Atlanta native Joe Alterman expresses a certain upbeat naivete, with a broad smile and bright eyes that make you feel welcome. One would not guess that this is a man hailed by greats; Ramsey Lewis describes his music as “happy music with tasty meat on the bones,” Les McCann states “Joe’s on a ‘blow your mind’ level,” and Ahmad Jamal calls him “a very special artist.” Journalist Nat Hentoff championed three of Alterman’s albums, as well as his writing (Joe wrote liner notes to three Wynton Marsalis/JLCO albums), calling one of Joe’s columns “one of the very best pieces on the essence of jazz, the spirit of jazz, that I’ve ever read, and I’m not exaggerating.”
Joe Alterman began at NYU with a BA and Masters in Jazz Piano from NYU and has since performed at many world renowned venues including the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Birdland and Blue Note alongside Houston Person, Les McCann, Dick Gregory, Ramsey Lewis, and his own trio, among others. Downbeat describes his sound as “rooted in the blues, and with a touch reminiscent of the great pianists of the 1950s—Red Garland, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans.” It is clear Joe hits all of the necessary points for Jazz critics and fans alike.
But there is more to the story, of course. The 21st century has brought another transition for this thing called jazz; in one moment we see the push and pull between tradition and progression, and in another we see Pop and Hip-Hop musicians emulating and sampling. In Joe Alterman we find none of this struggle; the music just sounds good. Our conscious faculties are instantly disabled as we tap our feet, feeling the intent and joy of his playing. An old classic is new when you feel good in the moment. Or, as Hentoff wrote about Alterman in the Wall Street Journal, “Alterman’s continually evolving presence on the jazz scene surely makes people smile and, if the room is right, dance. There’ll be no need for any last rites of jazz.”
This fresh and joyful intent is captured on his recent release “The Upside Of Down,” which was taken from two live shows at Birdland and named the tenth most played album on jazz radio in 2022 by JazzWeek.
Images: Anna Yatskevich