Jazz review: Austin Peralta Trio at Lot 1 Cafe


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It was easy to feel a measure of anticipation going into Thursday night’s show with jazz phenom Austin Peralta in Echo Park. An intriguing recent addition to the groove-centric local label Brainfeeder, Peralta’s latest album ‘Endless Planets’ marked a bold progression for both Peralta’s musical development and the imprint run by celebrated electronic fusionist Flying Lotus (a.k.a. Steven Ellison). Ellison’s 2010 album ‘Cosmogramma’ forged a beguiling stew of hip-hop and futuristic jazz that pointed to the influence of his great-aunt Alice Coltrane, but bringing Peralta into the fold signifies an intriguing and perhaps inevitable intersection of L.A.’s exploding beat culture and restless, forward-thinking jazz.

Though barely old enough to enter any of the many bars on Sunset, Peralta isn’t exactly a brand-new face. Son of ‘Dogtown’ skate-legend-turned-filmmaker Stacy Peralta, Austin released his first album, ‘Maiden Voyage,’ for Sony Japan in 2006 when he was just 14. With a eyebrow-raising rhythm section of Ron Carter and Billy Kilson, the album could have been a sort of ‘Next Big Thing’ coronation for Peralta with takes on tent-pole standards such as ‘On Green Dolphin Street’ and ‘Naima.’ Yet it’s telling that Peralta doesn’t list the album among his recordings on his website, and the record has never seen a domestic release.


Instead the focus is squarely on the now, and while ‘Endless Planets’ is a promising and occasionally brilliant piece of work, Peralta’s piano at times gets lost amid the rich playing of saxophone guests Ben Wendel and Zane Musa. With his band pared to a trio, this evening marked a chance to catch what the young phenom with plenty of room to let out the throttle.

And Peralta didn’t disappoint. Backed by a deft young rhythm section that featured his crafty drummer Zach Harmon and a new upright bassist after original choice Stephen ‘Thundercat’ Bruner was a late scratch, Peralta was often a force of nature on his red electric keyboard. Hammering out squelched, funk-dappled notes that recalled ‘Bitches Brew’-era Chick Corea at one instance or flickering, twilit atmospherics the next, Peralta sounded like every bit of the next big thing.

And while the show often traveled a funky and soulful path that recalled contemporary acid-jazz-leaning keyboardists such as Robert Walter, Peralta wasn’t afraid to stretch into uncharted lands. With Harmon adding unexpected hitches and breaks into the beat reminiscent of instrumental hip-hop, much of the set had a rewardingly off-the-cuff feel (perhaps a byproduct of the trio’s new member), but its closing take on Peralta’s Eastern-tinged ‘Algiers’ from ‘Endless Planets’ drew the most sparks.

With Peralta hammering on the keys and rocking around his chair as Harmon worked around the song’s trance-like, five-note bass figure, the band tore down the song’s core only to build it up again as the small but attentive crowd swiveled along. As passersby on a bustling Sunset Boulevard kept turning to catch a glimpse through Lot 1’s large front window to see what Peralta was doing inside, the future seemed bright not only for a young keyboardist but for new directions in L.A. jazz as well.


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-- Chris Barton