There’s an alternate universe where Gilles Peterson and his shiny Swiss face took a few too many pills in the late 1980s, spent all his time and money on an extended Ashram retreat in India, and ended up being that trilby-wearing frizzled jazz fusion fan at the corner of every trendy micro-brewery bar.
Luckily, the guy kept his shit together long enough to have reached 100 releases on his Brownswood record label, a feat that is being marked this month with a “straight-up retrospective of our favourite reworks from 2006 to 2013.” The Peterson and “Worldwide” brand that comes with it has an unusual sonic tenacity; essentially a clever collation of jazz, contemporary African, Latin American dance music, and the musical, soulfully crooning ground that house and techno share.
Listening to Brownswood One Hundred Remixed, it becomes clear how Peterson has kept that coherence despite the willful and constant appeals to eclecticism, the remixes providing a far neater, perhaps even musically flattened out chronology of Brownswood’s output. It’s this skill for collation that means that it’s not uncommon for DJs in Britain to describe themselves as “you know… a bit Gilles Peterson” by way of common understanding, and it’s also this skill for avoiding the oceans of really quite terrible “world”- and “fusion” (is there a worse word?)-styled bands that lets old Gilles stand out.
Moral of the story? Not sobriety, per se — plenty of us would rather spend an hour with the Frizzled evil Gilles drinking bloody marys and talking about Miroslav Vitouš’ — but moments that concede the limitations of vague “eclecticism” when it comes to compiling and releasing music. That, and making sure you are mates with Theo Parrish.