Flamenco guitarist brings a world of sounds to concertJesse Cook's latest album "Free Fall" (1998) has gone platinum on world music charts. Three others have gone gold. So far, he has toured with the Chieftains, collaborated with Diana Krall, appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the hit sitcom, "Sex in the City." But good luck finding a Jesse Cook album in a music store in Korea.
This may change soon as the "nouveau flamenco" guitarist will visit Korea for a concert Friday. The audience for world music may not get the attention that pop fans do, but they are devout. "I'm not at Spice Girls status, but I get stopped on the streets several times a day," Cook jokes from his studio in Canada. "It's fun."
Few flamenco guitarists reach worldwide fame, and few hail from Canada. So how does a Canadian become famous for his Gypsy licks?
Cook was born in France to Canadian parents. At the age of 3, he moved to Canada with his mother and sister; his father stayed in Europe, where Cook visited during vacations. One warm summer evening, Cook found himself on a rooftop in Arles, France, strumming a guitar with some neighbors who included Nicolas Reyes of the then-fledgling Gypsy Kings.
Years later, Cook began recording on an eight-track home studio system. When he composes, he flits between Brazilian rhythms, rumba, flamenco, pop and jazz. The sounds may not be pure anything, but his philosophy returns to the essence of music ?sounds as expressions of emotion.
Over the years, his music and studio have grown. He still produces and composes, often recording at home, citing the example of the famed musician Peter Gabriel.
"Tempest" was his first record. "It was an independent release, basically just to get a record deal," he says. The happy rumba sounds got the attention of Narada Productions in 1995.
He gained confidence, exploring darker sounds on his next album, "Gravity" (1996). "It's pretty and ugly, a tension that is important to art," Cook says.
In "Vertigo" (1998), he mixed flamenco sounds with modern Arabic music.
"'Free Fall' is about 'more,'" he says, "more freedom, more collaborations, a more rich soundscape." One song, "Viva," features 72 tracks of percussion, many of them unusual ?surdos, repiniques, timbas and chucalhos. "I wanted to create the effect of enormous Brazilian thunder," Cook says. "We kept adding track after track and didn't want to stop."
In the search for new sound textures, he worked in vocals by Danny Wilde in "Fall at Your Feet." In "Incantation," Djivan Gasparyan plays the Armenian duduk. "On Walks the Night" stars more unfamiliar instruments, such as the ehru, ney, dardoukas, riqs and zils. The music is exotic and evokes far off lands.
When Cook plays in Korea, however, he will simplify things, coming with a four-piece band ?two guitarists, a percussionist and a violinist.
This year, he plans to closet himself back to the studio. "I'm always in the same place: learning. I'm a perpetual music student and I will be until I'm old and gray."
For more information, call 02-317-3077/3066. The events Friday start with a cocktail reception at 7 p.m. at the Hilton hotel.
Cook's top 4
(in no particular order)
1. Peter Gabriel, experimental sound track - "Passion"
2. Vicente Amigo, Spanish flamenco guitarist - all his albums
3. Sarah McLachlan, folk rock - "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy"
4. Carlos Vivas, Columbian musician - "Dinitiera"
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