Compilation Review: ‘Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio’ (Snow Dog Records)

Gilles Peterson - Black Jazz Radio

★★★★☆

The reissue market is always a competitive one, but when Gilles Peterson says he’s gonna head a compilation concentrating on jazz, soul and funk masterpieces from a label to celebrate, Black Jazz Radio puts a bodyguard on the dial so that you won’t think of touching it. Exhibiting masters at work from an imprint that enjoyed a relatively short-lived existence but long-term significance, Peterson takes you right back to the watershed of the era, smartly attired with a rat race frown furrowing through the ’70s.

The show starts off sweetly and easygoing before getting into the nitty gritty, with the tired-sounding “Beauty and The Electric Tub” by Henry Franklin shaking itself out of a slump for 12 minutes. Track by track musicians start working overtime, freestyling while making a point (solos may ramble, but they still pay respect to its backers keeping up) and showing enduring influence. Rudolph Johnson’s “The Highest Pleasure” is steeped in hip-hop vibes, a little Latin peeps over Walter Bishop and Gene Russell, and Doug Carn fights the power. Rolling stone sleuthing and crimefighter compulsion from Cleveland Eaton has its quipping funk pinned by eager violins, sent slinking back further by Kellee Patterson’s soul lullaby. The entire Black Jazz catalog is to be reintegrated across a three-way mix collection/history lesson, and predictably Peterson has started the ball rolling just fine.

File under: Now-Again, Perception & Today, Freestyle

Matt Oliver