By Litchfield Performing Arts, a not-for-profit educational charity.

Discovering Genius – Pianist Joe Alterman

People ask me all the time, “Where do you find these artists?.” I usually say “The real question is what do I do with all the artists I find?” Few call me because they seem to know there is no time for chitchat here. Most send CDs. I look at them all and decide which ones look like a fit and could be worth listening too.  I would love to hear all these CDs through but… you guessed it, not enough time.

So I have a system. I place a pile of the top picks to the right of my computer screen and they stay there, nagging me, guilting me until I listen.  Sometimes I take them home.  One Sunday morning I played a CD I’d pulled  off the pile after it stared at me for 3 or 4 months.  Pretty title, “George Sunset.”  Cute looking young pianist.  And then I played it again. And again.  I played that thing five times, looked up his phone number and dialed.  The musician was Joe Alterman, a fresh-out of NYU kid with the soul of an old swinger.

This kid was no dummy either. His record was produced by a saxophonist who had taken a deep interest in him: none other than Houston Person.  Bang.  Not just great music but great name recognition for Jazz radio hosts. Many of the tunes were his own, but so engaging you did not want to skip over them to get to your favorite old saws.

I wore that CD out. Literally.  So instead of buying a new one, I bought HIM for your listening pleasure.  I engaged Joe for this upcoming festival TWO years in advance (I was already done with 2016).  Two years as it turned out was not enough time to book Houston, so I paired Joe with two of my favorites and yours, Matt Wilson on drums and Avery Sharpe on bass.  Matt’s played with absolutely everybody by now; ditto Avery with 20 years with McCoy Tyner in the bargain.  I figured they could teach young Joe a thing or two.  And maybe vice versa. Ramsey Lewis said of Joe (he’s) “an inspiration to me!.. His ability to swing is something to behold.”  How sweet would it be down the road to hear the Joe Alterman Trio with Matt Wilson and Avery Sharpe at Dizzy’s or the Jazz Standard?  Then you can say, “Why I saw Joe at Litchfield back in 2016!!”



  1. REPLY
    Deni Hirsh says

    I had the same reaction to Joe’s cd! Booked him for a 2015 Jazz in the Box at the Germantown Performing Arts Center. Instantly a crowd favorite! This young man definitely has the chops, and I’m so proud to have been part of what I’m sure will be a long Jazz career!

  2. REPLY
    Harry Koenig says

    You picked a winner. Recently saw Joe Alterman Trio @ Birdland and he not only filled the great jazz venue he blew them away with his talent.
    It is a tough business but based on talent this young man should go a long way.

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