Jovan Alexandre


Jovan Alexandre

Photo credit: Maurice D. Robertson

Jovan Alexandre is an emerging jazz tenor saxophone phenomenon, known for the brightness of his tone, and for the elegant, spiritual bearing of his compositions.

He may be situated, broadly speaking, within the penumbra of a hard-bop style made popular by the iconic alto saxophonist Jackie McLean [1931-2006] in his later years, when McLean had moved from New York City to Hartford, Connecticut, a transition that both cemented McLean's place in the pantheon of modern jazz giants and revolutionized the teaching of the music to new generations of players such as Alexandre.

Just as Jackie McLean himself had – in such albums for Blue Note as Let Freedom Ring [1962] and One Step Beyond [1963] – extrapolated upon both the lyricism and projection of a Charlie Parker or a Dexter Gordon and the angular modes and scales of John Coltrane, so has Jovan Alexandre positioned himself as a spiritual heir to McLean with authoritative and imaginative excursions into the free-flowing modernist colloquy pioneered by McLean.

Alexandre made his debut as a leader at the prestigious New York City Winter JazzFest [on January 9, 2015].

He has been a soloist on recordings for drummers Ralph Peterson (Outer Reaches [2010]) and Winard Harper (Coexist, sharing the tenor spotlight with Frank Wess [2012]), and for the South African jazz singer Nonhlanhla Kheswa (Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz [2013]). His first album as a leader, Collective Consciousness, was released worldwide [on February 24, 2015][on Xippi Phonorecords, XP22540].

Jovan Alexandre

Photo credit: Joseph Chandler

Alexandre’s Wallingford is fifteen miles due north of New Haven. Several times a week during his high school years, he made the further trek northward to Hartford, a city rich in jazz history, to study at the Artists Collective, a neighborhood institution founded to promote the art and culture of the African diaspora and much beloved of Hartford’s African-American and Caribbean communities. The Artists Collective was founded in 1969 by Jackie McLean with his wife Dollie McLean, transplanted New Yorkers, at a time of cultural and political ferment. The ensuing forty-five years have seen the Artists Collective evolve from humble physical beginnings in borrowed premises to become one of the nation’s most impactful grassroots teaching institutions in music – especially jazz – and other performing arts. In the 1980's, the University of Hartford’s Hartt School, a nationally prestigious conservatory, asked Jackie McLean to establish a jazz performance department. Alexandre is one of dozens of alumni of the Artists Collective to have continued their studies at Hartt. He graduated with distinction [in 2011] from the jazz program, now formally known as the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz.

Jovan Alexandre

Photo credit: Liron Joseph

At Hartt, in addition to intensive learning with Jackie McLean’s own son, René, Alexandre also studied with five other direct protégés of Jackie McLean, namely tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, alto saxophonist Kris Allen, pianist and arranger Chris Casey, trombonist Steve Davis, and bassist Nat Reeves. These instrumentalists are all key contributors to what some have called a “Hartford sound” grounded in Jackie McLean’s teachings and continuing influence, and especially his notions of historicity and the value of hand-to-hand transmission of jazz knowledge. Shortly after graduating from Hartt, Alexandre began to earn an almost “underground” reputation as one of the most compelling and talked- about of the new tenor saxophone soloists, through appearances with top-name musicians such as Hank Jones, Dionne Warwick, Curtis Fuller, Harold Mabern, Larry Willis, Charles Tolliver, Randy Brecker, Antoine Roney, Benito Gonzalez, Shimrit Shoshan, Ray McMorrin, Josh Evans, Curtis Torian, Tadataka Unno, and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra.

Alexandre and his current group have honed their work as a unit in regular appearances in all the principal jazz venues in Connecticut, notably Stamford's 9th Note, The Outer Space in Hamden, The Owl Shop in New Haven, and Hartford's Black-Eyed Sally's, Bushnell Park Pump House Gallery, and the Charter Oak Cultural Center, and in numerous summer jazz festivals. They have also become habitués of the New York City jam sessions at Smalls, Fat Cat, Dizzy's, and Minton's. With the release of his debut album Collective Consciousness, and more regular appearances in New York City and national and international touring on the horizon, Alexandre is poised for wider recognition as leader of his own ensembles, and as a composer of polished skill and uncommon daring.