Austin Peralta, son of Stacy Peralta, passed away at the age of 22 last week. Peralta’s star was on the ascent with several full lengths and innumerable live performances. Even his collaborations at such a tender age were the stuff of jazz dreams. Chick Corea, Robert Glasper, Flea and Frank Ocean have all paid their tributes and now is our time as well.
Last year on the site we celebrated his Brainfeeder release Endless Planets. In February 2011 I took my then-girlfriend, a classically trained piano player, and some of my closest friends to the album release party in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. It was a true Brainfeeder party, a motley assortment of LA’s young weirdos and music-obsessed. You can listen to that concert in its entirety in the Soundcloud player above. It contains his hallmarks: untamed expressiveness and music theory hung, drawn, and quartered. After the concert me and the lady had a conversation.
“I don’t get it.” She said.
“What do you mean?”
“He plays out of rhythm, out of the key, changes tempos. I was never taught to do anything like that.”
“But it makes sense, right? Even when he is off the deep end, he’s still in the water.”
“Yes it makes sense.”
“That’s jazz, B. It’s not supposed to make sense until it has to, wants to, or simply does. And even then, you have to trust it will find a resolution, like all music.”
Maybe that was Peralta’s biggest gift: his technical prowess and theoretical mind were soldered into his motherboard like few other musicians. Some guys have the chops, others have the theory. He had both. His modal recognition (in simple terms, playing different scales with the musical key) on the keyboard made sense into nonsense and back again. He could collaborate with anybody, from Flying Lotus to Teebs to the jazz greats, an essential link to the past and future of jazz. This is what we are missing. This is what we will miss.