As snow tickled north London and hats and gloves had to be fished out of wardrobes, it took a 69-year-old Brazilian to heat up a full-house Koko at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards on Saturday. With the clock ticking towards 11pm at the Mornington Crescent venue, Marcos Valle, the bossa nova innovator from Rio de Janeiro and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, finally thawed out the 2,400-person crowd.
With twinkling eyes and a neat four-track set, which kicked off with Mentira (from 1973 album Previsão do Tempo), his was the stand-out performance of the evening at the Grade II listed former Camden Palace Theatre, especially when set against some of the other acts who enjoyed a rather more lukewarm reception.
While 48-year-old trendsetter Peterson welcomes the obscure and hugs the avant-garde, there were some elements that failed to impress everyone on this occasion. With 16 headliners – bands, artists and DJs – combining to create the merry hodge-podge (which remains a steal at £25 a ticket), it was always going to be a challenge, but here there were key moments when momentum was lost, whereas in years past there had been a pleasing crescendo. Last year, for instance, headliners boasted Hudson Mohawke, Thundercat, Michael Kiwanuka, SBTRKT, The Pyramids, Julio Bashmore, Dimlite and Koreless.
This time Radio 6 Music presenter zoomed to Koko following his 3-6pm show, just in time for the doors to open an hour later when Alex ‘Patchwork’ Stevenson, the main organiser of the event, enjoyed a quick spin on the decks before The Greg Foat Group, led by the eponymous British jazz pianist, entertained the early birds.
As expected the frosty weather deterred few and fans clung precariously to banisters, crouched down on stairwells and squeezed on to the many balconies, weaving their eyes through the heads in front of them so as to catch a glimpse of the action.
Various turntablists tag teamed with bands, and Mala In Cuba was an early highlight – though this showing, restricted by time, did not reach the high of his Brixton performance in November - as was Owiny Sigoma DJs’ set. There was also a delightful two-track tribute to the late Terry Callier, delivered by 24-year-old Nottingham pianist Natalie Duncan – certainly a talent to monitor.
Then came Valle, who oozed star quality, before Peterson bizarrely gave fellow BBC 6 Music presenter Cerys Matthews free rein in the DJ booth. Presumably the former Catatonia singer was not the first choice for his guest DJ slot, as the behatted Welshwoman jigged around while a chap to her left attempted to mix her playlist, which jumped from Puerto Rico to Iran to Jamaica.
More oddness was to come in the form of Neneh Cherry, who, just before midnight in the top-billing slot, teamed up with London-based brothers RocketNumberNine for a 30-minute set that left most of the audience scratching their heads. It was a beat-lead sonic assault which failed to either make the most of Cherry’s powerful voice or convince the majority, though when the trio ended Peterson offered: “So when are you guys going to do the album?”
The handing out of the gongs came next, after Belgian DJ Lefto and Brownswood Recordings pillar, had briefly righted the balance. “I love that guy,” said Peterson as he took the stage to read out the nominees, and so he might for his injection of normality.
Stubborn Heart won Album of the Year with their self-titled release, Brainfeeder were named Label of the Year, while Track of the Year – which was determined by a 2,000-strong public vote – was Andrew Ashong and Theo Parrish’s Flowers. Ashong rather sheepishly took to the stage and showed his gratitude before explaining that “technical issues” prevented him from playing as scheduled, triggering more disappointment.
Another significant award – again decided by the public – went to Breakthrough Act Hiatus Kaiyote, the Melbourne “future soul group” whose Nakamarra is tune de jour for Peterson fans. Spunky vocalist and guitarist Nai Palm, who had earlier been dancing wildly to Valle’s samba, was another plus, and her short performance charmed the crowd.
Those who did not leave after the ceremony, which concluded at about 1am, were treated to The Invisible – who were impressive – Stubborn Heart, Hello Skinny and DJ Mr Raoul K and more Lefto before the 3.30am booting-out time. But the many who did escape Koko early to brave the chill once more left hopeful of Peterson pinning down a raft of more apposite Worldwide family artists in the next edition.
List Of Winners
Session of the Year: Tigran Hamasyan & LV
Jazz Album of the Year: Gary Bartz – Coltrane Rules: Tao Of A Music Warrior [Gary Bartz]
Album of the Year: Stubborn Heart – Stubborn Heart [One Little Indian]
Label of the Year: Brainfeeder
John Peel Play More Jazz Award: Neneh Cherry & The Thing
Lifetime Achievement Award: Marcos Valle
Track Of The Year: Andrew Ashong & Theo Parrish – Flowers [Sound Signature]
Best Breakthrough Act: Hiatus Kaiyote
Tropical Sound: Criolo – Nó Na Orelha [Beatriz Berjeaut]
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Words: Oliver Pickup