Young Los Angeles pianist combines modernity with jazz tradition on his third LP.
Daniel Spicer 2011
There’s a lot to be said for youthful energy, but just how far can it get you in life? Pianist Austin Peralta seems to be having a good crack at finding out.
The 20-year-old Los Angeles resident (and son of original skateboarding legend Stacy) is a former child prodigy who released his first CD, Maiden Voyage (a trio date featuring Ron Carter on bass) in 2006 at the age of 15; the follow-up, Mantra, followed a few months later (this time a quintet with veteran bassist Buster Williams). This third album – his first self-produced effort, and the first to feature all original material – is released on Brainfeeder, the label run by Californian laptop musician Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, great-nephew of the immortal John Coltrane himself. So, you’d expect this to be a coming-of-age album, displaying a new maturity, right? Well, yes and no.
At heart, tunes like Capricornus and The Underwater Mountain Odyssey are big, boisterous, contemporary, acoustic jazz – like Brad Mehldau with horns and an injection of rock‘n’roll energy. Drummer Zach Harmon and bassist Hamilton Price work up a bullish, crashing momentum throughout – and even the ballad Ode to Love jogs along with a restless drive (Note to Harmon: the use of brushes alone does not impart subtlety). Electronica artist Strangeloop provides unobtrusive segues between tracks and the final piece, Epilogue: Renaissance Bubbles, is a largely forgettable ambient collaboration with UK trip-hoppers The Cinematic Orchestra and vocalist Heidi Vogel. Yet, despite these nods to modernity, deep down, this is a very old-fashioned album. Most of the tunes stick roughly to a conventional head-solo-head structure, while Algiers – with an Arabian lilt to its bass hook and tasteful tablas – even has a somewhat naïve stab at the kind of ‘exotic’ jazz composition popularised by tunes like Coltrane’s Olé, as far back as the early 60s.
But the most tantalising track is Interlude – less than two minutes of deeply swinging hard bop that perfectly melds Peralta’s brash energy with his respect for the past. Here’s hoping it’s a glimpse of things to come.