By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
He slowed to human speed just before his New Year's set in Tokyo, fresh from vacation with his family in Lausanne, Switzerland. I could feel the whirlwind through the Skype connection as he described crate-diggingfor cheese. He's busy, but life's clearly not so tough. "Not in Lausanne," Gilles says. "They have the number one cheese store in the region. It's deep over there." (He had it bad for a Corsican goat cheese, evidently.) It's the same with musiche's surrounded by exotic excellence he just "has" to sift through. "I'm constantly struggling as to who I am," he says. "And if it ever gets too easy, you're cheating the people in some way." This, after 20-plus years spinning records, launching careers, serving gems from Brazil and Africa, bridging the worlds of dance music and jazz . . . his dedication is 100 percent vital. It's enlivening. But of course, that's his gig: He means it.
"My mission is to give people the energy that I received from jazz and funk records when I first heard them," he explains. His own education came in clubs and ballrooms, electric and vibrant. Fueled by complementing soul/fusion/r&b scenes in early-'80s London, Gilles's special purpose and knack for what he calls connecting the dots between genres might have gained an anchor when fate played a three-part solo: "In one week, when I was about 21, I happened to meet Mark Murphy, Jalal from the Last Poets, and Wayne Shorter," Gilles recalls. He pauses. "In that week, a great deal of learning happened." If the next 21 years are evidencea fresh DJ from a jazzbo scene blossoms into an impresario and curator with a worldwide radio showwhat he learned was powerful. He plays in such a way that you can hear what he hears: the common thread in sometimes radically different things.
Gilles returns this week to the home of Shorter, Jalal, and Murphy to push that feeling on, DJing in addition to showcasing new talent on the Brownswood label. "I love to play New York," he says. "New York gives the love." Hopefully he finds some cheese here he likes as well.
Gilles Peterson appears alongside Soil & Pimp, Tita Lima, Jose James, Taylor McFerrin, and others at the Hiro Ballroom January 24, giantstepstore.net