Austin Peralta, jazz pianist and Flying Lotus collaborator, dead at 22

The late Austin Peralta, left, performing with his trio at Lot 1 Cafe in April 2011.
(Chris Barton / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

Austin Peralta, the 22-year-old jazz piano prodigy, composer and son of professional skater Stacy Peralta, has died. Flying Lotus, the beat producer and labelhead who released Peralta’s music, confirmed the news Thursday morning via Twitter, writing: “it kills me to type that we lost a member of our family, Austin Peralta. I don’t really have the right words right now.” Peralta’s cause of death has not been announced.

Peralta’s recent output has ranged from collaborations on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder Records imprint, including the pianist’s 2011 album “Endless Planets,” and session work for artists including Erykah Badu and the Cinematic Orchestra. But Peralta first made his international mark at age 15 at the Tokyo Jazz Festival, where he and his trio performed a set that confirmed a pianist with prodigious talent.

You could see it in his hands, and those long pianist fingers that moved across the keys effortlessly. One night last year, Peralta gigged with his trio at the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice, and I was lucky enough to spin records between his sets. In addition to being an incredibly curious listener -- after we met, he flipped through my records and asked about a few tracks I’d played -- when Peralta sat down at the keyboard his talent was immediately obvious. I’ll always remember sitting a few feet away from him on the Speakeasy’s tiny stage, watching from close range his hands control his keyboard.


In a review of Peralta’s gig in 2011 at Lot 1 Cafe, The Times’ Chris Barton was effusive: “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.”

Musicians have been tweeting appreciations since the news started trickling out Wednesday night. Robert Glasper, who recently shared a bill with Peralta at UCLA, wrote: “RIP Austin Peralta..gifted young pianist gone to0 soon..glad I got to meet him last month..great dude..praying for his family…”

On his Tumblr page, Frank Ocean posted a clip of Peralta gigging at the Tokyo Jazz Festival.

Flea, the bassist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote: “Austin peralta was a transcendent musician, the kind of kid that made the future of music look bright. Thankful he existed. He broke through.” And famed BBC DJ Gilles Peterson, whose taste for visionary jazz is well-established, wrote: “I really can’t believe he’s gone - such a tragic loss Austin Peralta RIP.”

Flying Lotus initially announced he and Brainfeeder were cancelling a planned trip to perform in Japan in the coming days, but changed his mind Thursday morning, writing via Twitter: “scratch that.. JAPAN we’re coming!”

Pop & Hiss will keep you posted on any tributes in the coming days and weeks.


Jazz review: Austin Peralta Trio at Lot 1 Cafe

Review: Robert Glasper Experiment at UCLA’s Royce Hall

Austin Peralta teams with Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint


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