Jesse Cook is bringing his world sound to Cranbrook tomorrow night.
The Canadian guitarist, composer, and producer is widely considered one of the most influential figures in nuevo flamenco music, though as he himself says, there’s a lot more to his music than that.
Cook, born and raised in Paris and Barcelona, got a first hand look at the renaissance of flamenco, led by the Gypsy Kings, but his hybrid style is more of a global sound. World music is an apt term — a category encompassing many different styles from around the world: traditional music, neotraditional, and music where more than one cultural tradition intermingle.
Cook spoke to the Townsman from Kamloops on Monday, the first day of his One World tour (after the name of his new album), which rolls into Cranbrook Wednesday, Sept. 23.
“Some people refer to what I’m doing as Nuevo Flamenco, there are certainly elements of Nuevo Flamenco — myself, I don’t know what to call what I’m doing, there are so many different elements of world music, and I keep trying to change the rules. As soon as I figure something out I want to move on to something else. So I’ll leave it to someone else to figure out what to call it.”
When Cook released his first album (“Tempest,” 1995), the genre know as World Music was still under exploration. Cook himself is considered one of its pioneers.
“When I released my record, I’d been into rumba flamenco since I was a kid — I was also influenced by Peter Gabriel, so the world music thing was very important to me, bringing different types of music into what I was doing.
“In the beginning it was pretty exciting. There just wasn’t anyone else doing that. I wandered into this great be empty field and thought, ‘Wow, this is perfect. I can go anywhere, it’s all new terrain to be explored.
“And then a few years later I turned around and realized I’m no longer alone in this field. People are in there, making roads, putting up lights. Now there’s all sorts of people doing things that are in this area. It was pretty exciting to be among the first. I felt like an explorer for a while there.”
Terms like “global” and “world” apply not just to Cook’s sound, but from his travelling recording and performing career.
“On the record ‘Nomad’ I went to Cairo and recorded with musicians there,” he said. “On ‘Rumba Foundation’ I went to Colombia and recorded with musicians from that part of the world, and also some Cuban musicians — every record I want to go somewhere different.
“On the ‘Blue Guitar Sessions,’ I took what I was doing into sort of a ‘Blue’ space, not Blues, but blues in the sense of melancholy, get a bit of that Miles Davis feel, or Lhasa de Sela. An album where every track is unapologetically sad.
On the new record I took it into a new direction. It’s still world music, but I was experimenting with loops and loop technology.”
Nine albums later, Cook is staying true to his sonic mission.
“I’m trying to create a sound — it’s that idea that if you pull your focus back far enough, all the different types of music that are out there in the world, you start to realize they have shared roots.
“We’re always so focussed on the things that separate us as cultures, but in fact there are similarities, and you realize music is the universal language. You put music of different cultures, or even music of different time periods all in the same place in one piece of music, and they mix harmoniously together.
“On ‘One World’ we have an Armenian duduk — it’s one of the oldest instruments there is, and it’s mixing with electronica and things, and it sounds great. The sonic sensibilities of people 3,000 years ago invented this instrument work fine with the sonic sensibilities of people in the 21st century.”
Jesse Cook and his four-piece band will be touring right through to the end of the year, starting again in the spring. “So after a long summer off we’ll be hitting it hard for the next eight months. When you’re a musician that’s what you want to do. It’s nice to have a period off, so when you come back to it, you can say ‘yes, this is really a fun way to make a living.’”
Cook is travelling with a five-piece band, which includes multi-instrumentalist Chris Church on violin, the afore-mentioned Armenian duduk, accordion and other instruments; Nicholas Hernandez (“a wonderful flamenco guitarist, and recording artist in his own right”); Dennis Mohammed (on electric and upright bass — “he’s street cred for the band. He makes us sound a little bit more edgy”); and Alberto Suarez (Cuban percussionist and drummer, on his first tour with Cook’s band)
Jesse Cook and his band take the stage at the Key City Theatre Wednesday, Sept. 23. Showtime is at 7:30 p.m.