The album, which in typical Alterman fashion features a bevy of jazzy instrumental pop covers, is named after its third track, an original song that the Epstein School graduate penned on the night he decided to move back to Atlanta.
“They don’t have Waffle House in New York,” Alterman joked, “so it felt right to come back. I realized too for my music that when I’m writing the songs or getting inspiration, a lot of the things that give me that inspiration come from down here in Atlanta.”
Among his biggest inspirations are his friends, Alterman said, and they love when he covers popular tunes. That’s why this album, which was released last December, includes more covers than usual.
Alongside upbeat instrumental covers of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Sarah Smile,” the Zac Brown Band tune “Whatever It Is” and Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?” are two original melodies from Alterman: “The Last Time I Saw You” and the aforementioned title track.
“What really got me into jazz was not the crazy improvisations,” he said. “It was really the cool things that the musicians were doing to the melodies I already knew. For a long time, I was only playing jazz standards, but a lot of people don’t know those melodies. So I started to incorporate more modern and pop tunes into my sets. It’s nice to be able to relate to an audience, and also the more I explore these tunes, the more I want to go down that route.”
Alterman said additional covers he plans to arrange include “Hard to Handle” by Marietta’s Black Crowes, “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees and “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin.
“I have so much fun just buying a new book of music and playing through it and seeing what comes from it,” he said. “If you told me a year ago that I’d be playing the Bee Gees’ ‘Night Fever’ at my gigs, I would have thought you were crazy.”
Since moving back to Atlanta in 2016, Alterman has performed and toured in support of his album. Alterman performed more than 40 shows last year, including appearances at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, City Winery Atlanta and the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club in New York.
In June, Alterman won top honors in the 2017 AJT Jewish Atlanta Favorites musician category.
Happily Homeward Bound
Clocking in at just under 50 minutes, Joe Alterman’s album “Comin’ Home to You” is an easygoing and upbeat foray into jazz piano that most listeners, even those with a limited knowledge of jazz, can enjoy.
Starting with a funky, blues-inspired rendition of “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Alterman takes listeners on a catchy, energetic jazz journey.
He brings a fresh, youthful enthusiasm to his cover of renowned jazz pianist Les McCann’s “Fish This Week,” and his take on “Isn’t She Lovely?” is a catchy, toe-tapping delight. By the time he finishes the album with the slow and soulful “Everyone Says I Love You,” listeners are bound to have smiles on their faces.
Almost hidden among the cover tunes on the album are two excellent original compositions. The title track, “Comin’ Home to You,” is a display of piano expertise as Alterman dances from high to low notes and fast to slow tempo with ease. Soulful and melodic, “The Last Time I Saw You” brings back memories of the one that got away.
From start to finish, “Comin’ Home to You” is a must-have for the uninitiated and for devoted jazz fans alike.
Who: Joe Alterman
What: “Comin’ Home to You”
Price: $10; joealterman.bandcamp.com/album/comin-home-to-you