Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Austin Peralta: Endless Planets (2011)

There’s a lot to be said for youthful energy, but just how far can it get you in life? Pianist Austin Peralta seems to be having a good crack at finding out.
The 20-year-old Los Angeles resident (and son of original skateboarding legend Stacy) is a former child prodigy who released his first CD, Maiden Voyage (a trio date featuring Ron Carter on bass) in 2006 at the age of 15; the follow-up, Mantra, followed a few months later (this time a quintet with veteran bassist Buster Williams). This third album – his first self-produced effort, and the first to feature all original material – is released on Brainfeeder, the label run by Californian laptop musician Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, great-nephew of the immortal John Coltrane himself. So, you’d expect this to be a coming-of-age album, displaying a new maturity, right? Well, yes and no.
At heart, tunes like Capricornus and The Underwater Mountain Odyssey are big, boisterous, contemporary, acoustic jazz – like Brad Mehldau with horns and an injection of rock‘n’roll energy. Drummer Zach Harmon and bassist Hamilton Price work up a bullish, crashing momentum throughout – and even the ballad Ode to Love jogs along with a restless drive (Note to Harmon: the use of brushes alone does not impart subtlety). Electronica artist Strangeloop provides unobtrusive segues between tracks and the final piece, Epilogue: Renaissance Bubbles, is a largely forgettable ambient collaboration with UK trip-hoppers The Cinematic Orchestra and vocalist Heidi Vogel. Yet, despite these nods to modernity, deep down, this is a very old-fashioned album. Most of the tunes stick roughly to a conventional head-solo-head structure, while Algiers – with an Arabian lilt to its bass hook and tasteful tablas – even has a somewhat naïve stab at the kind of ‘exotic’ jazz composition popularised by tunes like Coltrane’s Olé, as far back as the early 60s.
But the most tantalising track is Interlude – less than two minutes of deeply swinging hard bop that perfectly melds Peralta’s brash energy with his respect for the past. Here’s hoping it’s a glimpse of things to come.
1. Austin Peralta - Introduction: The Lotus Flower (2:16)
2. Austin Peralta - Capricornus (8:14)
3. Austin Peralta - The Underwater Mountain Odyssey (6:38)
4. Austin Peralta - Ode To Love (6:41)
5. Austin Peralta - Interlude (1:16)
6. Austin Peralta - Algiers (13:37)
7. Austin Peralta - Epilogue: Renaissance Bubbles (1:47)
Endless Planets
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