Algiers – Austin Peralta

I was very saddened to hear of Austin Peralta’s premature death yesterday at the age of just 22. He’s an excellent pianist, musician and composer and not enough people have heard his great records, so here’s a few reasons why you should:

Despite his young age, Peralta made a formidable name for himself in the avant-garde jazz scene, starting with an appearance at the Tokyo Jazz Festival at just the age of 16, playing his own compositions with his own trio. Peralta isn’t your typical jazz musician though, in fact I wouldn’t really call him ‘jazz’ at all. He has played session slots for such diverse acts as Erykah Badu, Cinematic Orchestra and Chic Corea and his long time collaborations with label-boss Flying Lotus have seen him delve into the murkier, electronic side of free-form jazz.  All this shows on his most recent, third album released last year, Endless Planets. The record shows a development from traditional forms of swing jazz to avant-garde solos and harmonies that test the barrier between noise and music, reminiscent of the recent work of Ryuichi Sakamoto. My favourite track from the album is ‘Algiers’, take a listen below:

The track is a beautiful example of the layering of melodies, starting with the meandering lines of  bass and piano that work their way through and around the loose tempo, creating a subtle atmosphere that foregrounds the rest of the track. Slowly, the bass settles into a modal groove, laying the foundations for the John Coltrane-esque  alto saxophone solos which are accompanied by the Indian tabla drums which create another layer of exotic, eastern sounds. 

Throughout the whole thirteen minute track, though, what really stands out is Peralta’s piano playing. For such a young artist, he plays with the fluency and expression of a seasoned pro; hanging back enough to let the solos ride out and take on a true improvisatory form, but also driving the group into different grooves and sounds. And that’s just his accompaniment, his own solo is blisteringly fast and technically astounding and yet is still capable of holding the bass groove and driving it forward.

The whole of ‘Algiers’ and Endless Planets  shows Peralta’s great skill and potential, charting his growth as an artist. Unfortunately, we’ll never get to hear where his sound might have taken him. RIP Peralta.

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