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Gilles Peterson: The Jazz Tastemaker

A conversation with the jazz-crazy, groove-loving, globally minded impresario Gilles Peterson

Photo of Gilles Peterson
Gilles Peterson

Even at 52, Gilles Peterson still exudes childlike glee when he plays records. Watching him host his weekly program at BBC Radio 6 Music in early August was inspiring and infectious. Each time the French-born, London-based impresario spun a song, his eyes brightened as if he were hearing the most transformative music for the very first time. As he offered tidbits about the tracks and artists, his voice reflected that excitement.

Supported by a small team handling broadcast directions, his website and his social-media platforms, Peterson also brought an improvisational zest to his programming. He paid tribute to the recently departed record executive and producer Joe Fields via a Kenny Barron cut, and presented music by such emerging U.K. artists as Vibration Black Finger, Zara McFarlane and Ezra Collective. Also filtering through the set was Eddie Palmieri’s “Life,” Arthur Blythe’s “Autumn in New York” and Kamasi Washington’s “Truth,” topped off with a special nod to Jules Buckley, co-founder of the East Sussex-based Heritage Orchestra.

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