Jesse Cook, musician/producer, combines virtuoso rumba-flamenco guitar playing with elements of musical styles from all over the world. He has performed with the Chieftains, Diana Krall and Charlotte Church, among others, and has appeared on Jay Leno. Cook’s CDs have all charted on Billboard magazine’s top 10. He has won a Juno award, two Canadian Smooth Jazz ‘Guitarist of the Year’ awards and a Gemini award. His music has been featured on several episodes of Sex in the City, the Buddha Bar compilations and all of the Olympic games since Tempest, his first CD, made its debut in 1995.
He also has mesmerized Craig Chaquico's audience at Britt Fest, a totally amazing evening.
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. He has recorded on the EMI, E1 Music and Narada labels and has sold over 1.5 million records worldwide.
Born in Paris on 28 November 1964 to photographer and filmmaker John Cook and television director and producer Heather Cook, and nephew to artist Arnaud Maggs, Jesse Cook spent the first few years of his life moving between Paris, Southern France and Barcelona. As a toddler he was fascinated by the guitar and tried to emulate the sound he heard coming from his parents' recordings of Manitas de Plata, a famous Gypsy guitarist from the region of Southern France known as the Camargue.
After his parents separated, Cook and his sister accompanied his mother to her birth country, Canada. Recognizing the musical aptitude of her son, Cook's mother arranged for him to take lessons at Toronto’s Eli Kassner Guitar Academy. Cook eventually studied under Kassner, himself a student of the great maestro Andrés Segovia. While Cook was still a teenager, his father retired to the French city of Arles in the Camargue where his neighbor just happened to be Nicolas Reyes, lead singer of the flamenco group the Gipsy Kings. During frequent visits to Arles, Jesse Cook became increasingly fascinated by the “Camargue sound”, the rhythmic, flamenco-rumba approach that could be heard on many corners and cafés in the “gipsy barrio”.
Back at home, he continued his studies in classical and jazz guitar at Canada's Royal Conservatory of Music, York University, and Berklee College of Music in The United States. He has often quipped that he later attempted to unlearn it all while immersing himself in the oral traditions of Gypsy music. This helped him widen his range of musical tastes.
The 1995 Catalina Jazz Festival was a turning point in his career. His debut album 'Tempest' had been independently released in Canada. Within a month, a deal with American company Narada allowed them to be booked at the Catalina Jazz festival. Originally the band was to perform during the twenty-minute intermissions in a little bar downstairs from the main stage. His performance was well appreciated, so appreciated in fact that Cook was invited to give a performance on the main stage, where he received a ten-minute standing ovation before the audience would allow him to play. Shortly afterwards, Tempest entered the American Billboard charts at #14.
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. Other artists Cook has performed and/or recorded with include: Montse Cortés (Spain), Flora Purim(Brazil), Holly Cole (Canada), Afro Celt Sound System (England), Buckwheat Zydeco (USA), Danny Wilde of The Rembrandts (USA), Liona Boyd (Canada), Ofra Harnoy (Canada), Alex Cuba (Cuba), Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto (Colombia), Dadawa (China), Djivan Gasparyan (Armenia), and Dulce Pontes (Portugal), among others.
His music has been featured on several episodes of Sex and The City, The Chris Isaak Show and several Olympic Games. At the 2006 Winter Olympics, Irina Slutskaya of Russia won a bronze medal skating to Cook's composition "Mario Takes a Walk".
In 2001, Cook won a Juno Award in the Best Instrumental Album category for “Free Fall.” In 2009, he was Acoustic Guitar (magazine)'s Player's Choice Award silver winner in the Flamenco category (gold went to Paco de Lucia). He is a three-time winner of the Canadian Smooth Jazz award for Guitarist of the Year and numerous other awards.
In 2012, his concert television special "Jesse Cook, Live in Concert" was broadcast on the PBS and Public Television networks in the United States.
In 2013, his concert television special "Jesse Cook, Live at Bathurst Street Theatre" is now being broadcast on PBS and Public Television Networks in the United States.
Below is an interview with Theresa Poalucci which is very revealing:
“I wear many hats,” said Jesse Cook. “I compose music, produce, I am a sound engineer and guitarist. My role as a guitarist is actually small.”
However there is nothing small about the way Cook plays the guitar. When his fingers fly across the strings you would think you are hearing more than one guitar, as the resulting sound is rich with detail.
A Canadian, Cook was born in Paris to a filmmaking father and a mother who directed TV and acted as a producer. In his early years he was exposed to the sounds of Southern France and Barcelona. When his mother took him home to Canada, she arranged for him take guitar lessons with Toronto’s Eli Kassner Guitar Academy, where his talents were so obvious that he studied with the man himself. He eventually landed at Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music, York University and the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston. Berklee graduates include the likes of Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, guitarist Brad Whitford, and Melissa Etheridge.
“A teacher told me that in order to become a concert quality guitarist, I would need to practice 10 hours a day, so I did,” explained Cook. “As I got toward the end of all that education I thought no one makes a living being a concert guitarist.”
So Cook headed home and started composing music and opened a recording studio where he helped other record. He wrote commissioned pieces for dance companies, background music for television shows and tracks for movies. His music has been in every Olympics since he started composing. Life was good until something rather quirky happened.
“In Toronto they were playing some of my songs as the background to their channel that shows the TV guide listings,” said Cook. “Every time they played a piece where I had recorded myself playing guitar the switchboard would light up at Rogers.”
The receptionists at Rogers would send these inquiries to the department that bought the music and did not know what to tell people about the composer. So they would give the callers his home phone number.
“I did not have a CD available for the public, so I did not know what to tell people when they called me,” he said. “But the calls kept coming and it made me reconsider the idea of doing a CD of my own.”
So Cook recorded his first album entitled Tempest. He went to a company that manufactured CDs thinking he would get 500, but they had a special for ordering 1,000.c “I thought great, what will I do with all of these,” said Cook, who imagined having stacks of CDs in his basement. Instead the initial 1000, flew out the door in the first week, and an additional 2,000 by the end of the month.”
It wasn’t long before Cook was getting playtime on the radio, both in Canada and the U.S. and his compositions were hitting the billboard charts. Cook got a call from a U.S. label about a recording contract, but they wanted to see him perform.
“I didn’t have a show, so I called some friends and we put one together,” he said. “Our first show was at a restaurant. It was a disaster and no one paid attention.”
Cook’s mom heard about the second show that her son and his newly formed band were going to attempt. Mom called all her friends and packed the venue. This is the show that the president of the record company saw and he was amazed at the crowd and their enthusiasm. Cook was signed.
That was nearly 20 years ago. Today he is working on his ninth album. He also has three live DVD’s and has traveled the world exploring musical traditions and blending what he discovers into his own works.
Ask him to describe his musical style and he hesitates. “That is the big question. I hate labels. I don’t like being part of a genre. I like cross pollinating and breaking the rules,” said Cook.
“I like people to go on a journey, to get lost in the music,” he said of his hopes for the listener. “this music is not for everyone, but for the people who do get it, I hope they feel enriched by it. I make the kind of music I would like to hear. In the very broadest term I compose and play world music.”
As a composer, Cook likes to take two styles of music that have never met before and blend them in new and interesting ways. He sees his style as a crossroads. “I want to be the Byzantium of our time.”
Go to see a Jesse Cook live show and you will also hear his five-piece band of talented multi-instrumentalists.
“Our shows usually end with everybody out of their seat dancing,” said Cook. “At the end of the night we want to end with a Rumba party.”
At any of Cooks concerts, there will be a mix of those who live close to the theater or concert hall and those who have traveled from a far. Cook used to always ask folks to applaud if they had traveled two hours or more to be there, and often it was more than half the audience.
This kind of fan devotion is unusual considering that Cook has never recorded a big pop culture hit, but people have found the music despite the fact that there is no big push from a record company.
“For the people who do connect with my music, the connection seems to be very profound,” he concluded.
JUNO Awards Nominations and Wins
1997: Best Global Album: Gravity, Nominated: Jesse Cook
1998: Instrumental Artist(s) of the Year, Nominated: Jesse Cook
1999: Best Instrumental Album: Vertigo, Nominated: Jesse Cook
1999: Best Global Album: Vertigo, Nominated: Jesse Cook
2001: Best Male Artist, Nominated: Jesse Cook
2001: Best Instrumental Album: Free Fall, Won: Jesse Cook
2001: Best Global Album: Free Fall, Nominated: Jesse Cook
2004: World Music Album of the Year (sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts): Nomad, Nominated: Jesse Cook
2008: World Music Album of the Year (sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts): Frontiers, Nominated: Jesse Cook
2008: Music DVD of the Year: One Night At The Metropolis - Jesse Cook, Nominated: Jesse Cook, Pierre Séguin, Darrell Gilmour
2011: World Music Album of the Year (sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts): The Rumba Foundation, Nominated: Jesse Cook
Total Nominations: 11
Total Wins: 1
Juno Awards Artist Summary Jesse Cook
Music Canada Gold and Platinum Certification Awards Certifications
Gravity (1996) Certified: Gold
Vertigo (1998) Certified: Gold
Free Fall (2000) Certified: Gold and Platinum
Nomad (2003) Certified: Gold
Frontiers (2008) Certified: Gold
The Rumba Foundation (2009) Certified: Gold
One Night at the Metropolis (2007) Certified: Gold and Platinum
Music Canada Gold/Platinum Artist Summary Jesse Cook
Gravity (1996) Nominated for a Juno Award for Best Global Album
Vertigo (1998) Nominated for a Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album and Nominated for a Juno Award for Best Global Album
Free Fall (2000) Won a Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album and Nominated for a Juno Award for Best Global Album
Nomad (2003) Nominated for a Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year (sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts)
Frontiers (2008) Nominated for a Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year (sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts)
The Rumba Foundation (2009) Nominated for a Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year (sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts)
The Blue Guitar Sessions (2012)
One World (2015) Coming on April 2015
The Ultimate Jesse Cook (2005)
Greatest Hits (2010)
One Night at the Metropolis (2007); DVD Nominated for a Juno Award for Music DVD of the Year
The Rumba Foundation (2009); DVD
Jesse Cook: Live in Concert (2012); DVD
Jesse Cook: Live at the Bathurst Street Theatre (2013); DVD
Enchantment (2001) Charlotte Church
Camino Latino (2002) Liona Boyd
Seed (2003) Afro Celt Sound System
Other compilation appearances
Guitar Music For Small Rooms (1997) (WEA)
Gypsy Passion: New Flamenco (1997) (Narada)
Narada Smooth Jazz (1997) (Narada)
The Next Generation: Explore Our World (1997) (Narada)
Narada Film and Television Music Sampler (1998) (Narada)
Narada Guitar: 15 Years of Collected Works (1998) (Narada)
Gypsy Soul: New Flamenco (1998) (Narada)
Obsession: New Flamenco Romance (1999) (Narada)
Gypsy Fire (2000) (Narada)
Guitar Greats: The Best of New Flamenco - Volume I (2000) (Baja/TSR Records)
Narada Guitar 2: The Best of Two Decades (2000) (Narada)
Buddha Bar III (2001)
Tabu: Mondo Flamenco (2001) (Narada)
Camino Latino / Latin Journey - Liona Maria Boyd (2002) (Moston)
Guitar Greats: The Best of New Flamenco - Volume II (2002) (Baja/TSR Records)
Best of Narada New Flamenco Guitar (2003) (Narada)
Guitar Music For Small Rooms 3 (2004) (WEA)
Gypsy Spice: Best of New Flamenco (2009) (Baja/TSR Records)
The World Of The Spanish Guitar Vol. 1 (2011) (Higher Octave Music)
Guitar Greats: The Best of New Flamenco - Volume III (2013) (Baja/TSR Records)
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