Jesse Cook, Artist of the Week
Runs June 13-17th.
Born in Paris in November 1964 to photographer and filmmaker John Cook and television director and producer Heather Cook, Jesse Cook spent the first few years of his life moving between Paris, Southern France and Barcelona. He ended up moving to Canada with his mother and sister, and Toronto is now what he calls home.
Jesse Arnaud Cook is a Canadian guitarist, composer, and producer. Widely considered one of the most influential figures in “nuevo flamenco” music, he incorporates elements of flamenco rumba, jazz & many forms of world music into his work. He is a Juno Award winner, Acoustic Guitar (magazine)’s Player’s Choice Award silver winner in the Flamenco Category, and a three-time winner of the Canadian Smooth Jazz award for Guitarist of the Year.
For Jesse Cook, music has been a journey. Sonically and literally.
“Over the years, I’ve taken my music and tried to cross-pollinate it with music from different parts of the world,” explains the 50-year-old global-guitar virtuoso. “For the (2003) album Nomad, I went to Cairo and recorded with musicians there. On my (2009) record The Rumba Foundation, I went to Colombia, and worked with musicians from Cuba as well. On (1998’s) Vertigo, I went down to Lafayette, La., and recorded with Buckwheat Zydeco.
After two decades of criss-crossing the world in restless pursuit of inspiration, innovation and collaboration, the Paris-born, Toronto-raised Cook changed course for his ninth studio album One World, out April 28th on eOne Music world-wide. Instead of exotic locales, he stayed home in his studio. Instead of a foreign legion of performers, he relied on his own devices.
I was a classical guitarist as a kid, and I studied flamenco and then I studied jazz. So there are three musical and guitar traditions in my background. And one of the forms I use, rumba flamenco, is itself a hybrid created in the 1800s when sailors were coming back to Spain from Cuba, having heard these Cuban rhythms. And here I am, 150 years later, taking it and mixing it back with modern music and seeing where it takes me. Music is a constantly evolving thing.”
“I have two small children, and my son is forever trying to get on my computer. If I’m in my studio, he’ll come in and sit down and just start pushing buttons and making things happen in the recording program I use. At first I was terrified he would mess things up. But he actually got really good at poking around. I started going, ‘Wow, what’s that? What are you doing? Let me in there!’ I started writing tunes using weird loops and metallic and electronic sounds. And I found myself interested in taking what I do and putting it in a more modern context. I’ve leaned heavily on ancient instruments. But for this record, I put those instruments side by side with modern sounds — unabashedly so.”
What results is the most sonically diverse and distinctive disc in Cook’s vast and varied catalogue, which has earned 11 Juno nominations and one win for 2000’s Free Fall. Naturally, Cook’s masterful guitar work commands centre stage with its elegant balance of subtlety, in-the-moment honesty and blazing technical prowess. But here, it also pivots between worlds — past and future, familiar and fresh, acoustic and electronic — redefined by technology like every element of modern life.
Cook has recorded eight studio albums, three live DVDs and has traveled the world exploring musical traditions that he has blended into his style of rumba flamenco. In addition to headlining concerts and festivals, he has opened for such legends as B.B. King, Ray Charles and Diana Krall. He has performed with Welsh soprano Charlotte Church on The Tonight Show and toured with legendary Irish band, The Chieftains.
“I wanted to make what I was doing feel like Constantinople, the ancient city that existed between the East and the West. It was the meeting point of all these great cultures — Africa, Europe, Asia, India. I want my music to be that place: The Constantinople of sound. A place where ancient sounds meet with modern ones and pass though that port.”
The journey continues.