By April Basler
Jazz pianist and composer Joe Alterman is headlining Taking Notes: A Benefit Concert for the Jewish Educational Loan Fund on Saturday night, Jan. 24, at the Defoor Centre in Midtown Atlanta.
Alterman performs regularly at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York and has played at such famous venues as Preservation Hall in New Orleans and Scullers in Boston.
Also performing will be four alumni of JELF’s interest-free loan program for Jewish students from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. JELF provides the final money students need for post-secondary education.
Alterman is an alumnus of the Epstein School in Sandy Springs and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music at New York University. He began playing piano at a young age and credits his dad for his passion and love for music.
He chose jazz over other genres because it allows for improvisation. He spends his days teaching piano and practicing his music and reserves his nights for performances.
“Every performance is memorable in some way, but every once in a while there’s an experience where I get to play in front of a hero of mine, which has always been extremely memorable,” Alterman said. “I’ve opened many times for two of my favorite piano players, Les McCann and Ramsey Lewis, and it’s always fun. It was a good learning experience to play in front of both of them for the first time.”
Tenor saxophonist Houston Person produced Alterman’s upcoming album, “Georgia Sunset,” which features several songs by Person, one of Alterman’s mentors.
“Ever since I first heard his music when I was just a youngster, Houston Person has been a hero to me,” Alterman said. “I never dreamed I’d get the opportunity to befriend, work closely with and receive mentorship from him — his tireless work with me on this album cannot be overstated.”
There is a story behind the title track of “Georgia Sunset,” which is being released Jan. 26 through iTunes, Amazon and other online music retailers.
“It kind of just came to me one night while I was sitting at the piano,” Alterman said. “I remember I was playing around with the song ‘Soft Summer Breeze’ by the great, underrated pianist Eddie Heywood, and it sort of led me into this new song, which took me nearly a year to title.”
What: Benefit concert for JELF
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24
Where: Defoor Centre, 1710 Defoor Ave., Midtown
Tickets: $36 to $118; www.jelf.org/takingnotes or 770-396-3080
He finally found the title while he was flying home to Atlanta. Looking out the window, he saw a beautiful sunset over Lake Lanier, where he made many happy memories with his family as a child.
Alterman is looking forward to playing in his home city at the JELF benefit. “It’s always fun to perform in Atlanta.”
He normally has a band when he plays in Atlanta, but he’ll play solo at the Taking Notes benefit. “I’m playing a blend of some nice jazz tunes, a couple Motown tunes and a couple Jewish songs that I’ve rearranged in a fun style.”
Preceding Alterman onstage at the benefit will be clarinetist Michael Shane, singer George Slotin, pianist Benjamin Warsaw and Duo de Vista (guitarist Marina Alexandra and flautist Teri Forscher-Milter).
“Taking Notes is the first time that JELF has had the opportunity to showcase the talents of four of our JELF alumni who would not be where they are today without JELF’s assistance,” JELF Executive Director Jenna Shulman said. “We are thrilled to have already sold over 200 tickets to this special event and know that it is going to be truly spectacular.”