Greatest Salsa Pianist?

Piano monster outplaying everybody

Published on LatinoLA: June 1, 2009

Greatest Salsa Pianist?

Zak Astor is clearly a musical prodigy who was born into a family of passionate salsa fans. Zak began taking formal classical piano lessons at age 4, and showed unusual talent at 6 when he began intensive training.

Almost all his life experiences have had music at their center. Zak's move from piano student to professional musician took place by the same stages and small increments familiar to most musicians who have traveled this path except that Zak has traveled the path phenomenally fast.

Since the age of 13 when he made his professional debut with LA Picante he has been a familiar figure in the local salsa society with musicians telling each other about this unbelievable kid piano player.

Zak entered Los Angeles County High School for the Arts as a freshman in 2006. LACHSA, as it is known, is a highly selective and nationally recognized high school for the very talented, with admission only by audition. Zak beat out 33 auditioning pianists for his spot.

Now at age 16, his abilities are clearly beyond the ability of the vast majority of salsa pianists, making pianists with the regular styles sound like amateurs or beginners. Zak's basic gifts are world class. Zak has woven the virtuoso tradition and salsa idiom together in his playing from the early days of his development and is bringing a previously unimagined level of playing into salsa.

Famous salsa bandleaders Johnny Polanco, Al Gonzalez, Pablo Aleman, Walter Segundo, Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, bore witness to this talent.

Dr. Bobby Rodriguez a UCLA music professor has nothing but praise. Zak has improved three fold in the two years he's known him, Rodriguez said.

"Zak's got quite a future on his hands, this kid is just way way too good and he has so much going," Rodriguez said.

Zak Astor may turn out to be the greatest salsa pianist. It is within his reach.

He may have enough raw talent to be the equal of the greatest pianists of the 21st century.

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