Jesse Cook travels the world with his fingers. Through his globe-spanning and genre-bending compositions, the nimble-fingered guitarist has taken nouveau flamenco to places it has never been, creating new fascinating hybrids. As one of the most celebrated instrumentalists on the planet, Cook is forever restless, constantly searching for new sounds, rhythms and textures to explore. Touring off his new album Beyond Borders, Jesse Cook found inspiration in his own backyard of Toronto. “Toronto has become one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, so I can stay home and find everything I need. We have musicians from Armenia, Greece, Spain, Columbia, India, West Africa, Cuba and Jamaica, to mention a few. You can find Brazilian samba schools and West African drum circles, so I was able to record Beyond Borders in my home studio.”
The album took two and a half years to make, with every track created to Cook’s own meticulous standards. He writes, records and arranges the music, creating templates with deep emotional foundations, before inviting collaborators to add nuance and shading to the compositions. “Everything on this album comes from my own experience. I was going through a difficult period in my life and it blew the door of my imagination wide open. I went for a huge sound, without limits. I threw away the rules, trying to find places I’d never been before, and I got there. The sad songs are sadder, the rhythms are more intricate, the sounds mashed up to look at traditional patterns in a new way.”
Born in Paris and raised in Toronto, Cook studied classical and jazz guitar, and as a child was always intrigued by the highly rhythmic rumba flamenco style. Following up on that curiosity, Cook dove headfirst into the gypsy musical tradition as he began to find his own musical voice. After a show-stopping performance at the 1995 Catalina Jazz Festival, Cook’s little-heard debut, Tempest, suddenly took off in the U.S., landing at # 14 on the Billboard Charts.
Cook’s career has seen steady growth in the years that followed, his multi-cultural take on rumba flamenco striking a nerve with listeners. One of the hallmarks of his sound and aesthetic is to travel the world, meeting and collaborating with artists and incorporating the results into his music. In addition to headlining concerts and festivals, he has opened for such legends as B.B. King, Ray Charles, The Chieftains and Diana Krall.
In 1998, Cook was nominated for a Juno Award as Instrumental Artist of the Year. In 2001, he received a Juno Nomination for Best Male Artist, as well as winning in the Best Instrumental Album category for Free Fall. In 2009, he was Acoustic Guitar’s Player’s Choice Award silver winner in the Flamenco category. He is a three-time winner of the Canadian Smooth Jazz award for Guitarist of the Year and numerous other awards.
Over twenty years into his career, Cook is now forging more than just musical traditions of the world. With his 2015’s One World, he is now forging the ancient with the modern, infusing contemporary sounds of the electronic digital age into his timeless rumba flamenco rhythms.
“…lightning fast and bright flamenco guitarist…Jesse Cook…is about as seductive, percussive and danceable as this kind of music gets…also a powerful pop songwriter, with each melody standing out above the weaving rhythms sung by his intoxicating strings.” Jazziz
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