Gilles Peterson might have the best job in music. Check out the Swiss-born Brit's CV, and you'll find bullet points along the lines of "globe-trotting DJ," "influential tastemaker," "arbiter of cool," and "hero of the underground." For almost two decades, Peterson has been digging through crates in dusty record shops and scouring nightclubs and street corners around the world, connecting far-flung musical dots with a beat-centric prime meridian. As the man credited with coining the term acid jazz, Peterson is responsible for bridging '60s soul and '70s funk with the future-forward sounds of house, drum 'n' bass, and broken beat. Add in his acclaimed Gilles Peterson Worldwide album series, released on his own Giant Step and Talkin' Loud labels, which touch down in creative hotspots from Bahia to Ghana, and you have a man with a truly worldly perspective on music. Since 1998, he's been sharing that perspective with millions on his BBC Radio 1 program Worldwide with Gilles Peterson.
"It's a job I treasure very highly and I try to make sure I don't take advantage of it," Peterson says via cell phone from London, "in the sense of being honest with the people that trust me. You can quite easily live off this kind of job, but you don't last long if you don't care about it enough."
Peterson's personal devotion to his work comes through in the just-released, double-disc set Gilles Peterson Presents the BBC Sessions. As part of his weekly radio show, Peterson invites bands into the studio for intimate, often acoustic performances of rare or reworked material. BBC Sessions features unreleased tracks from superstars like Beck, Common, and Zero 7 side by side with up-and-comers Cody Chestnut, Dwele, Plantlife, Amp Fiddler, and more. The mix is expansive and unfailingly thrilling, a two-hour revelation of both Peterson's ever-impressive tastes and the featured musicians' willingness to stretch beyond their own expectations.
"I definitely talk to the artists and try to get them out of the autopilot zone and into the moment," he says. And he does: Bjork's dreamy team-up with mouth musician Rahzel, Roots Manuva's piano-driven, acoustic hip-hop, and N.E.R.D's surprising, uplifting soul highlight Disc 1, while the Roots' fiery "Melting Pot," Homelife's giddy, singalong space mambo, and iconic jazz drummer Steve Reid's celestial musings with Four Tet stand out on Disc 2. The common thread? A hefty helping of that intangible element called soul. "Whether it's electric or a vocalist with an acoustic guitar or a big band," he says, "these are artists who can be free with their connection to their inner self with music." Jonathan Zwickel
Hefty from Chicago, Ghostly International (Dabrye's label), and Stones Throw and Ubiquity for rare groove reissues and solid hip-hop.
Sonar Kollectiv from Germany (Jazzanova's label), Ninja Tune in London.
Global hot spots:
Scandinavia (though not so much Denmark); Zagreb, Croatia; Ethiopia; Puerto Rico; Budapest, Hungary; even Moscow and St. Petersburg are changing for the better. JZ
A Day in the Life
Last month, St. Louis pop-rapper Nelly inked a deal to star in his very own reality series. While no further details about the show are available and the initial storyboards are being kept under tight wraps, Outtakes recently obtained a copy of the pilot episode, complete with minute-by-minute accounts of the mega-star's fascinating life. A few of the more exciting scene synopses follow.
11:32 a.m. Nelly wakes up groggy after staying up 'til 5 a.m. discussing upcoming collaboration project with Barry Manilow. Reaches for can of Pimp Juice.
12:52 - 1:13 p.m. Flips through dictionary looking for words that could use a good "erre" up in thurr. Comes up with the following: debonerre, underwerre, vinegerre.
1:50 p.m. Finishes daily primping by applying superficial facial band-aid.
1:55 p.m. Realizes band-aid looks incredibly stupid.
1:57 p.m. Re-applies band-aid in more stylish fashion.
2:15 2:19 p.m. Calls Ashanti on cell phone. Asks if she's still his "boo." Receives this inconclusive answer: "Baby, baby, baby... baaaby."
3:00 3:40 p.m. Attends meeting with the board of directors for his wildly successful brand of women's hip-hop apparel, Apple Bottoms. Proposes introducing a line of men's bikini briefs, tentatively to be called "Fruit Basketz."
4:15 5:50 p.m. Reads through script for his upcoming role in a remake of the 2004 film You Got Served. Wonders aloud whether anyone can possibly improve upon J-Boog's interpretation of savvy, street dancer Rico.
6:03 7:20 p.m. Feeling unsure of himself, calls members of St. Lunatics. Asks if they want to get the group back together. Laughs ass off.
7:30 p.m. Realizes he's running late for a charity event to benefit disabled children.
7:31 8:29 p.m. Parks his ass on living room couch. Watches Laguna Beach for 59 minutes.
8:34 p.m. Hops in the diamond-encrusted Bling Mobile for the one-minute, twenty-second commute from his manse in East West Buttfuck, Missouri, to downtown St. Louis.
10:05 10:08 p.m. Arrives in hotel ballroom where benefit ended 45 minutes earlier. Performs acoustic version of "Hot in Herre" for three paraplegic grade-schoolers whose ride has yet to pick them up.
10:15 11:30 p.m. High on philanthropic juju, cruises over to J. Bucks Restaurant for a celebratory caesar salad (sans lettuce, extra croutons).
11:35 p.m. Exhausted from a hard day's work, steers the Bling Mobile to Highway 40 and heads home for some much needed Zs. Tomorrow is another action-packed day, beginning when Nelly must decide which Cardinals jersey to wear: Pujols or Sanders? Stay tuned. Chad Garrison
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.