Jazzanova The BBC Sessions

[Ether; 2005]

Styles: nu-jazz, r&b, hip-hop, eclectic
Others: Blue Note

Roughly a year after John Peel's death, this collection of live in-studio recordings, first broadcast on DJ Gilles Peterson's Worldwide show on BBC, feels like something of an attempt to introduce a successor to the Peel Session throne. Of course, this isn't likely Peterson's intention, but given the notoriety of Peel and the back catalogue of amazing performances, it seems naive to imagine that this didn't factor in to the release of this set. With that said, there are some big shoes to fill, and unfortunately, the results are not completely convincing.

Peterson's past DJ mix comps have consistently been some of the best representations of the form. He's been able to maintain an eclecticism of artists and genres and still create a nice and tight flow. The roster of live performances on this set is just as eclectic as ever, but there are far more meandering moments found here than there should be. After a killer opening cut of amazing orchestral jazz, "Telescopic" by Heritage Orchestra, the second recording makes it clear that there's something lacking here. N.E.R.D.'s "Exclusive Jam" amounts to two mundane riffs that are played interminably while Pharrell kicks out some of the most mind-numbingly inane lyrics and off-key singing of his career. Is Peterson trying to make them come off as incompetent live performers by choosing this jam? If I were C-Hu or P-Wil, I'd be asking for an explanation.

From there, the mixed bag does improve mostly, featuring some stellar inclusions such as Herbert's "Audience," Bjork's "Who Is It," The Roots' "Melting Pot," Amp Fiddler's "I'm Doin' Fine," and, somewhat ironically, Jamie Cullum's reimagining of the Neptunes' "Frontin." However, the uneveness of the tracks and their sequencing seem almost unforgivable when considered in light of Peterson's skills as a DJ. The recording quality on everything is great, which offers hope that future collections, with a more carefully selected batch of tracks, could be outstanding. With Peel gone, Peterson is our next best hope, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

CD 1
1. The Heritage Orchestra - Telescopic
2. N.E.R.D. - Exclusive Jam
3. Jazmine Sullivan - Braid Your Hair
4. Matthew Herbert - Audience
5. Beck - Round the Bend
6. Bjork - Who Is It
7. Roots Manuva - Dreamy Days
8. Peven Everett - Gabrielle
9. Spektrum - Kinda New
10. Beth Gibbons - Romance
11. Nitin Sawhney - Gilles Smiles
12. Plantlife - 3am
13. Fat Freddy's Drop - This Room
CD 2

1. The Roots - Melting Pot
2. Heavy - Unbelievable
3. Amp Fiddler - I'm Doin' Fine
4. Zero 7 - This World
5. Bilal - Sometimes
6. Jade Fox - Grace Under Pressure
7. Dwele - Red Clay Revisited
8. NSM - Don't Say It
9. Roisin Murphy - Sow Into You
10. Homelife - The Seedpod
11. Cody Chesnutt - The Seed
12. Common - The Corner
13. Jamie Cullum - Frontin
14. Steve Reid and Four Tet - Knives and Forks