Review: Gilles Peterson Highlights Varied Jazz Styles In DJ Set

'Rare groove' pioneer links international rhythms of new and old Latin, house, Afro-Cuban music in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO — Even though he's a DJ in the year 2000, Gilles Peterson is a jazz master.

The internationally syndicated radio host, influential label honcho and London club impresario topped a jazz-influenced lineup Tuesday night at San Francisco's Bimbo's 365 Club. The stylistically varied performers were a smooth fit for a crowd ripe with international flavor.

French, Japanese and Portugese accents hovered above Peterson's signature eclectic song selections at the DJ's second area appearance in the past three months.

Peterson, a Swiss native who calls South London home, showcased a sound-system-style set — letting songs finish before starting another, rather than blending records together for a seamless mix — that paid no mind to genre boundaries. He hopped intuitively from breezy bossa nova to fresh, white-hot, two-step garage tracks, including Wookie's current club hit "Battle," to obscure Afro-Cuban jazz funk, never letting the tempo flag. His love for music of all eras and cultures — and for forging the links between them — was in full bloom, and the crowd responded with dancefloor abandon.

By displaying the "rare groove" style he helped define a decade ago in London jazz clubs — named for its unearthing of obscure jazz, soul and funk albums of the '60s and '70s — Peterson highlighted the stellar depth and variety on his recent mix-CD and U.S. debut, INCredible Sound of Gilles Peterson.

As a co-founder of the prominent electronic-jazz label Talkin Loud, host of a globally syndicated weekly show on BBC Radio 1 and overseer of a long-running London club night at Bar Rhumba, Peterson is unrivaled at drawing parallels between electronic music and the traditional rhythms of Africa, Brazil and Latin America.

Even Openers Switch It Up

Bimbo's' lush red drapes and bona fide '50s decor were an appropriate setting for opening DJ Andrew Jervis, who melded the proto-breakbeat rhythms of Brazilian batucada with the brassy sheen of cool and Latin jazz, all anchored by deep but buoyant grooves.

Jervis, who is a member of the electronic duo Bugs, got the eager crowd off on the right foot with songs such as "Espacio" (RealAudio excerpt) by Quorum — his project with Jonah Sharp (a.k.a. Spacetime Continuum and Paul Scriver (a member of Better Daze with Jervis) — and "Batunova Scat" (RealAudio excerpt) by The Amalgamation of Soundz. Both tracks are included on a compilation of Latin-flavored jazz and electronic music called The New Latinaires 3, due Sept. 5.

Oakland's Sons and Daughters of Lite followed Jervis with a set of house music tinged with elements of samba, incorporating horns and percussion atop soloing guitars and synths into the mix.

Other than Sons and Daughters' "Let the Sun Shine In" (RealAudio excerpt), from his "INCredible" release, Peterson relied more on fresh tracks such as Gotan Project's "Triptico" and a Modaji mix of Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project's "Airto."

The Ultimate Vinyl Junkie

Despite his simplified "mixing" style, Peterson's sampling of multiple styles affirmed his legendary reputation as a "selector" and vinyl junkie time and time again.

"Gilles is always a source of inspiration," Jervis said. "I used to see him spin when I was only just old enough to squeeze into clubs, and that had a big effect on the way I DJ. He has always championed that 'anything goes' perspective. The skill is in joining the dots, keeping it fresh, and pushing the limits a bit while remembering that you're 'only' a DJ, people are there to have a laugh and enjoy the sounds."

Probably because of city regulations that force the club to close at midnight, Peterson looked visibly rushed during the latter part of his set. His typically smooth buildups were stunted, evident in his frustration, which led to a forced and somewhat jerky finish.

"He's totally old-school: good vibe, anything in the mix, as long as it keeps you on the dance floor," Chris Roach, an enthusiastic fan, said. "Both [Peterson and Jervis] are masters of collage, and the best collage artists are the ones who get their hands on the most unique or most beautiful raw materials, and then it comes down to arrangement. I even saw him mix in a couple of things on 45s!"