Jesse Cook in Concert – leaving the best to last.

7 06 2015

Review of Jesse Cook’s Live Show Victoria BC, Canada 5 June 2015.

The final venue for Jesse Cook’s current Canadian tour took place in Victoria, B.C. Canada, and what a show!

From the outset he was ready to party and encouraged, the mainly middle aged audience (his fan base (?) or simply Victoria!) to join him in a rhumba party. And yes the crowd were ready to clap, dance and participate in sing-along audience participation throughout the show with the band.

I’ve been a big fan since the release of his first CD, Tempest in 1995 and used some of his haunting, swirling Arabic and Brazilian fused rhythms mixed with his famous flamenco-style music from Vertigo (his hugely successful 3rd CD) at my wedding in Cannes, France in 1999.

If you are not familiar with this artist, Jesse 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.

In addition to headlining concerts and festivals, he has opened for such legends as B.B. King, Ray Charles and Diana Krall. He has also performed with Welsh soprano Charlotte Church and toured with legendary Irish band, The Chieftains.

 

Jesse and band mingle with crowd

Jesse and band mingle with crowd: Photo Copyright Rich Arthur

This current tour was designed to promote his latest album, One World, which features a diverse range of musical influences from South America, Middle East and beyond.   This penchant for “world music” is equally reflected in his choice of band musicians.  I pre-ordered this CD and I’m still waiting to receive it so will review once received!

His longest serving band member is Chris Church– the multi-talented maestro from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Church plays the violin, accordion, percussion and sings. And, as Jesse shared with the crowd, he recently added the Armenian Duduk (the Grandfather of saxophones and Oboe) to his playing skills! Jesse had discovered this sound during his travels and a famous Armenian musician and composer, Djivan Gasparian had recorded with the band for one number on an earlier CD, Free Fall. As a result, it was a song that Jesse could not perform live “Incantation” as it was impractical to fly in Djivan from Armenia for one number. As a result, Cook decided to learn how to play this ancient instrument.   With that background, Cook teased Church on stage that he better nail the song! Which of course, he did.

On percussion Jesse had secured the services of Chendy Leon from Cuba. He was the backbone to the whole show and moved from drums, congo, tin pans and delivered an amazing and entertaining solo on a cajon.

Another force on stage was the equally talented Nicolas Hernandez who has been playing guitar with Jesse for over a decade. His latin musical strumming and plucking strengthen and complement Jesse’s rapid style flamenco guitar playing throughout the show.

Adding a slice of funk to the line up was Dennis Mohammed who played bass and an upright bass guitar.

A local guest vocalist, from Victoria, was announced and for a moment we thought we might have the good fortune to see Nelly Furtado join Jesse on stage. Certainly her experience to sing in Spanish, English and Portugese would have complemented Jesse’s music, but no it was a local lass, Kristina Héléne. She accompanied the band on the cover of Sting’s number “Fragile” and her smoky, jazz styled voice did justice to this romantic ballard.

Jesse ran the two set show with extreme ease and professionalism. Arriving on stage alone speaks volumes about how humble and confident he is about his music. He revealed himself to be quite an amusing and a worthy raconteur.

He kick started the show with some well known upbeat songs and then almost apologetically asked permission to play some music from his new CD One World.

He shared some background to how he had produced this latest album, breaking away from some of his more traditional musical roots. As he joked, his wife felt disappointed. To explain fully, she had expected him to go to a studio, a la 1960’s play a song and have it fully recorded in 3 minutes. However, Jesse, like his world music, has fully embraced the use of technology. Thanks to the creativity of new music software it’s now possible to build a song, track by track with contributions from a wide range of musicians who may never meet. Large files are therefore zipping over the internet and being shared, edited and returned ahead of final mixing and music launch. So in the past as Jesse travelled around to pick up ideas and influences for his work, he admitted he had stayed in his Toronto home, with no need to roam to develop his latest “One World” East meets West release. As many in his business are discovering, gone are the long studio rehearsals but now embracing the electronic style of producing music.  See an example of what he did on this link

After this explanation, Jesse asked the audience if they would like to hear how he had built some of the tracks, to which the answer was yes.

With the aid of digital looping technology (using his magic pedal box at his feet) Jesse commenced to lay down some basic music composition. He was then joined by other band members, who added to this mix, until a cacophony of reverb sounds rang out around the hall to the appreciation of the crowd.

The band moved from traditional line up to moving front stage for casual and informal percussion led numbers, audience clap along involvement and breaking away from the stage for a spine chilling acoustic Crowded House cover of Fall at your Feet, to the delight of the audience.

I would like to say a few words about the amazing lighting that bathed the band in blues, purples, red and greens which perfectly complemented the mood of the songs. Atmospheric, moody, sad, romantic, sensual and simply orgasmic – just like the music!

I had the good fortune to have a seat in row 3 and so had up close and personal views of his scintillating guitar skills. As he strummed away you could see each tendon in his arm flexing as he strummed and hit his guitar frenetically thorough his unique nuevo flamenco music. I struggled to see if he was still using crazy glue on his nails to strengthen his talons, to survive the abuse his frenzied plucking created!

Jesse Cook is an astonishingly generous person repeatedly thanking his band members and mentioning crew members who had gone beyond doing more than their job. He also shared how blessed he felt to make a difference in this world with not only his music but via his ability to give back to different charities. He highlighted one particular environment charity group, David Suzuki’s Foundation Blue Spot that he had invited to share his night.

The encore included another audience pleaser, a version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic “Cecilia” and The Lumineers Hey Ho.

Meeting Jesse Cook: Sandra and Richard ARTHUR

Meeting Jesse Cook: Sandra and Richard ARTHUR

I met up with Jesse after the show to express my appreciation of his wonderful show. I joked with him how many babies did he think his music had brought to the world. Wearily shaking his head, he had been challenged with the question many times, like Godfather of soul, Barry White, but his meek smile reflected some of his inner pride from such a notion.

We discussed the new trend of producing music on vinyl – rather amusing to think that such “old” technology is making a comeback. Must be all these baby boomers in early retirement wanting to bathe in the nostalgia of their youth!    Jesse confided he had considered making a vinyl LP but was reviewing production choices in Canada. No promises, as sales are still extremely small representing less than 3% of music sales. So if you want to buy Jesse’s next album on vinyl let him know!

Though the tour was over for the moment, there was no time to party, for Jesse had a 6 am flight back to Toronto in the morning.   He’ll be back in July performing in other parts of Canada and USA through to year end.

If you missed seeing his him this time then I highly recommend you book a seat for one of his shows later this year – definitely one of the people to see this year! You won’t be disappointed.

Bravo Jesse and band.   I absolutely loved it darling.