Gilles Peterson is a British DJ, record collector, label owner, and a treasured champion of forward-looking electronic music via his longstanding radio shows on the BBC.
Throughout his career, Peterson has drawn upon the jazz tradition as a reference point from which to engage with the most contemporary trends in electronic music. From the early ‘80s until the early ‘90s, Peterson’s night at Camden’s Dingwalls was a testing ground in which jazz icons like Herbie Hancock might rub shoulders with cutting edge hip-hop. It was a distinctive blend of Latin, funk, and jazz which characterised the genre dubbed ‘acid jazz’, which would give the label Peterson co-founded in 1987 with Eddie Piller its name. Much of Acid Jazz’s substantial catalogue would become the height of chic by the early ‘90s, with Mother Earth’s album The People Tree and Jamiroquai’s When You Gonna Learn, both released in ‘93, remaining high points in their rhythmic vitality and popular appeal.
Ejected from his show at the newly-established JazzFM in 1990 for broadcasting anti-war comments on the gulf war, and with the Dingwalls residency drawing to a close, Peterson developed a distinctive and eclectic radio style as the ‘90s progressed, and was picked up by BBC Radio 1 in 1998. Peterson’s “Worldwide” show, which ran from 1998 to 2012 on Radio 1, established him, along with close friend Benji B, as one of the foremost representatives of new talent both in the UK and internationally. Peterson would gain the respect of electronic luminaries like Carl Craig for airing cutting-edge electronic tracks from the likes of Caribou, Four Tet, and Flying Lotus, alongside delving in depth into his jazz collections and presenting live sessions from artists as iconic as Bjork. In 2012, Peterson moved to BBC 6 Music, and continues the work he started at Radio 1 in a longer format program.
Peterson’s reputation as a tireless advocate of high quality electronic music also sees him maintain an international touring schedule, and, since 2006, his Brownswood Recordings imprint. Brownswood Recordings’ output has been leisurely since its inception, but the release of dubstep icon Mala’s 2012 album Mala In Cuba, in which Peterson played a vital artistic role, must rank as one of his most salient achievements. The samba-come-halfstep of cuts like “Mulata” are the embodiment of the forward-looking fusion styles Peterson has championed throughout his career, and a testament to his unique, restless vision.