Austin Peralta: The Shadow of Your Smile


The Shadow of Your Smile


Austin Peralta (piano)


Maiden Voyage (Sony Japan)

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Austin Peralta (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Billy Kilson (drums).

Composed by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster


Recorded: New York, September 27, 2005


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Consider the strange case of pianist Austin Peralta, now 18 years old as I write this review. Signed to a record contract by Sony Japan, Peralta had two CD leader dates for a major label, each featuring an all-star cast, under his belt by age 16. But none of his music has been issued in the United States, and Peralta has no interest in using these impressive disks to boost his career back home. He claims that they don't represent what he can do nowadays at the piano, and refused to send this writer (whose curiosity had been piqued by the music on Peralta's MySpace page) review copies. What a change from the aggressive hyping and over-marketing of unripened jazz prodigies, either grace-ful or savage, that is so characteristic of new millennium jazz.

Undaunted by the self-effacing artist, I dug deep into the piggy bank to get this music imported from Japan to my home stereo system. (Check it out: you can get this disk from across the Pacific for a mere $52.99 currently at Amazon . . . ouch!) And if you have some spare yen rolled up in your tatami mat, you may want to secure your own copy of this CD. In other words, don't believe young master Peralta's modest claims for a single moment. This youngster can play. Even in his mid-teens, when he recorded this track, he displayed a crystal clear touch, smart musical ideas and a confident presence at the keyboard. The repertoire is mostly familiar standards on this CD, and here he tackles a piece that could easily collapse into cocktail piano heroics. But Peralta carries the day, with the benefit of some exceptional support from the estimable Ron Carter and Billy Kilson. This pianist is definitely a talent to watch. Let's hope his next CD gets wider distribution.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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