‘¡Cook Es Caliente!’
With seven studio albums in fifteen years, Juno-Award winning flamenco guitarist, Jesse Cook, is riveting listeners yet again with his newest release, The Rumba Foundation. A red-hot collection of thirteen hip-swaying Latin tempos, the enigmatic and seductive styling of The Rumba Foundation is alluringly provocative.
With the new album, Cook melds his vision of world music into an elemental and colorful dish of Cuban rumba flamenco and Columbian vallenato. The ending result is a beautiful interpretation of flamenco guitar; wonderfully upbeat, occasionally melancholy, intoxicatingly sultry.
Taking time from his busy North American tour, Jesse Cook sat down with Exclusive Magazine to discuss The Rumba Foundation; including the interesting journey taken to produce the new album and just how a Parisian-born Canadian became a modern-day flamenco virtuoso.
Your music has it’s eclectic roots in Nuevo flamenco, jazz, Latin and gypsy music. Who were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? "When I was just a 3-year-old, it was my parents’ Manitas de Plata records that got me hooked on rumba flamenca. In my teens, it was the guitar trio of Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola and their fusion of jazz and flamenco that really inspired me to practice. These days, it is music from all over the world that turns my crank. There are so many fantastic artists playing so many different styles of music. It is a big world out there."
For those who may be unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe the sound and style of your new album “The Rumba Foundation”? "On The Rumba Foundation, I am bringing rumba flamenco to the Americas. In some ways it is completing a round trip. The rumba part of rumba flamenca originally came from Cuba in the 1800s. There are many flamenco forms, which find their roots in Latin America. They are called "ida y vuelta" forms."
On it’s first day of release, “The Rumba Foundation” rocketed to #1 on iTunes Canada Album Chart, beating out Madonna who came in at #2. Did you ever expect this album to be as wildly successful as it has been? "Of course not, but I have never expected any of my albums to do well. I recorded my first CD on my own, before I had a record deal. Initially I had a thousand copies made. I thought they would be collecting dust in my basement forever. I thought I would be giving them away as Christmas presents for the rest of my life."
You’re currently touring all over the US and Canada with dates extending well into the late spring. What can fans expect from a live show and what is your favorite part of being on tour? "I think the aspect of our show which most surprises the uninitiated is that our shows often climax with a crazy rumba dance party."
You were born in Paris, France to Canadian parents; how were you exposed to the gypsy and flamenco styles of music you’ve embraced as your own? "I don't think we would have had those De Plata records if we hadn't been living in France as a kid. It was that initial exposure which got me hooked. Later, my dad retired to Arles and lived in the Gypsy quarter. This further deepened my fascination with this music."
You just so happened to grow up next door to Nicolas Reyes, lead singer of the highly successful flamenco group, Gipsy Kings. Tell us a little about this odd crossing of paths "One summer when I was visiting my dad in Arles, my dad played me a new record he bought from a local band called the Gipsy Kings. When the record finished, we thought we heard somebody else playing the same record nearby. We soon realized that what we were hearing was in fact live musicians. We climbed up to my dad's rooftop patio and there on the neighbor’s patio we saw a gipsy juerga going on. When they finished their song, I strummed my guitar and next thing we knew, I was jamming with the Gipsy Kings."
Indeed, how easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "Wow…when you put it like that, it sounds impossible. My approach to making music is to allow myself plenty of time to play around with music and experiment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. After so many years of music education, I now try to look at music the way a child does…to still see it's magic and wonder."
You can officially include the title “Juno Award Winning Artist” before your name after your 2001 Juno award in the Best Instrumental Album category for 2000’s “Free Fall”. How has this success played in gaining exposure for your music? "It is very encouraging to receive the respect and encouragement of your peers, but at the end of the day, I believe people chose their music purely for how it affects them emotionally. I don't think they buy music based on an artist's qualifications. No one has ever checked my résumé before coming to one of my concerts."
In addition to the dozen or so original tracks on “The Rumba Foundation”, you’ve also included a fun remake of Paul Simon’s “Cecilia”. Tell us a bit about this cover and how you feel your version pays homage to the original "I am a huge fan of Simon and Garfunkel. I love Paul Simon's writing and love the sound they got on the original version of that song. To me, it almost sounded like gipsy music with all of the hand-clapping and foot-stomping. I have wanted to record that song for years, but it wasn't until this past year when I met Jeremy that I felt I had the right singer to do that song justice."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? "Adam and the Ant's "Ant Music". I'm a sucker for percussion."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins, do you? "What's not to love? Everyone looks great in a tuxedo!"
Indeed! To hear more from Jesse Cook, check him out online at his website and official Myspace page!
Interviewed by: Erin M. Stranyak
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