If you want to know why the death of piano prodigy Austin Peralta was so devastating, watch the video above. Forget the fact that he was only 20 when he performed this. There is a sense of soul, rhythm, and virtuosity that belies any arbitrary marker. His ivory work was possessed but loose, played with a taste and improvisational spirit that built and expanded on McCoy Tyner, adding a hip hop pulse and skateboarder’s gonzo ideas to the post-bop strut of the former Coltrane collaborator.
Bob Dylan once used the phrase, “helpless as a rich man’s son.” But Peralta was anything but: he had the gift to communicate complex chords and delicate emotions through a left handed sweep, killer chops, and infectious grin. Watch that video and see the joy of the jam, the ability to create something that I’m talking about years later, indelible evidence that will remain long after he’s passed.
For the last few years, Peralta was everywhere you turned, with Thundercat and Lotus, he was a third crucial bridge between the jazz and electronic worlds. A kid born out of time, blessed with a talent so far-reaching that he seemed to be one of the best candidates to usher jazz deep into this century. A interstellar and manic counterpart to the steady syncopation of Robert Glasper. The next one. And now he’s dead just days after his 22nd birthday.
What is there ever to say when something this tragic happens. Nothing, really. So go listen. Listen to Endless Planets. Eat well. Be thankful that we’re still standing. Condolences to the Brainfeeder family and anyone who stumbled across him these last few years. And a mournful R.I.P. to Austin Peralta. However ephemerally his star may have shone, we were blessed to have had the chance to hear him.