Jesse Cook known for flamenco but has many talents
ALBANY Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook comes to Albany for coffee.
“We get our coffee, no matter where we are in the United States, we get our coffee beans shipped to us from Chris’ Coffee,” Cook said of the Albany coffee services store. “The ‘Black Pearl,’ it’s fantastic. If we’re in another country, we’re like ‘Ohhhh, I miss the Black Pearl.’ When I think of Albany, I think of The Egg and Chris’ Coffee Service.”
On Sunday Cook will be at The Egg, serving a blend of Spanish rumba flamenco spiced with jazz and other influences.
Tickets to show are $34. Students with valid identification card can purchase tickets at half price one hour before show time. The student rate is limited to two tickets per identification.
“We do sort of a world music mash-up,” said the 49-year-old Cook, speaking by telephone from his new tour’s second stop, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
“I think people associate me with Spanish guitar and to be truthful, my style is a hybrid,” said Cook, who lives in Toronto. “I was a classical guitarist as a kid, I did flamenco as a kid, then I went to a jazz school later on. Now, I just do whatever I want. I don’t really try to belong to any musical school or anything; I use whatever technique that sort of feels right for the song I’m working on. I try not to worry too much about what camp that puts me in as a musician.”
Like it or not, Cook is best known for the rumba flamenco style. He’s been a leading proponent of the genre since his first album, 1995’s “Tempest.”
But change is good, and for his eighth studio album, 2011’s “The Blue Guitar Sessions,” Cook replicated the mood of recordings from the Miles Davis era. He looks for different styles. He’s played with musicians in Egypt, Great Britain and Columbia.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about trying to find a new sound using old sounds, using traditional music to create something you’ve never heard before,” Cook said. “It’s fun for me. That’s what gets the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, keeps me going.”
The beginning of the day, musically, started for Cook when he was just a toddler. His parents — John and Heather Cook — were living in the south of France. The region was home to gypsy rumba guitarists, and these rumba recordings were often heard in the Cook residence.
The family later moved to Barcelona. Young Cook was exposed to Spanish guitar styles.
“There’s nothing subtle about Spanish guitar,” Cook said. “It’s either passionately sad or crazy happy. There’s nothing in the middle. As a kid, that’s what you react to; it just makes you want to get up and dance like nuts or it makes you want to cry and throw yourself off a bridge.”
While Cook is identified as a flamenco guitarist, he tries to present other artistic sides.
“For me, flamenco is something very clear and specific,” he said. “It’s the music of the gypsies of southern Spain. There are certain forms and traditions they adhere to. I break those rules. I don’t want to carry that torch. I’m all about breaking rules and trying to create something that sounds new and exciting. I don’t refer to what I do as flamenco. It’s funny, but other people in other parts of the world will refer to what I’m doing as flamenco, but I have yet to meet a flamenco artist who would describe my work as flamenco.”
Cook said people may expect a serious evening of music at his concerts. But there’s more than that.
“It tends to break into a rumba party by the end of the evening,” Cook said. “People are up dancing and going a little crazy and that’s what we like. A lot of the music that we draw on, there are dance traditions. We mix what we do with salsa, merengue and vallenato.”
Those mixes accent social music and dance with Latin American influences, Dominican Republic influences and Columbian influences, respectively. During production, Cook will be working with guitarist Nicholas Hernandez, violinist Chris Church, percussionist Chendy Arocha and bassist Dennis Mohammed.
“By the end of the concert, that’s where we’re going,” Cook said. “People should bring their dance shoes. Maybe have a little something to drink during the intermission.”
Cook used to have the exotic mix of musics all to himself.
“When I first started doing this, it was a wide open field,” he said. “I kind of wandered into it and thought, ‘I wonder what I can do here, no rules, fantastic, do whatever you want.’ Now I look back and suddenly see other musicians coming into my field and they’re building roads and setting up lights and suddenly it’s becoming a genre. And it was a strange thing to see this thing that I thought was something that came out of my head become almost a genre because there are now lots of kids, Oscar Lopez, more recently Rodrigo y Gabriela. They’re doing something a little bit different on their own, they’re taking it in their own direction.”
Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Mexican guitar duo who manage to blend flamenco, jazz, classic rock and heavy metal, are coming to The Egg later this month, on April 26.
Cook’s U.S. tour began April 2 in Atlanta, Ga., and will make stops in Florida; Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania; Connecticut; Massachusetts; Texas; and California before closing in Seattle on May 16.
“One minute you’re walking your kids to school and the next minute you’re standing in front of 1,500 people,” Cook said. “You’re not the same person when you’re doing those two activities. And when I’m away from the road for long periods of time, like over Christmas I was off the road for a couple months, by the end of that period you wonder, ‘Will I ever do it again? Will I ever be able to go on that stage?’ ”
Cook is doing it now. As long as he has his coffee.
“Our whole tour is fueled by high octane ‘Black Pearl’ coffee beans,” he said.