Flamenco phenom Jesse Cook shares his blue guitar with Cowichan

Jesse Cook wowed the Cowichan Theatre with his fretboard wizardry in the spring of 2009. - Andrew Leong/file
Jesse Cook wowed the Cowichan Theatre with his fretboard wizardry in the spring of 2009.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Flamenco-rumba renaissance guitarist Jesse Cook imports hues of his blue period to the Cowichan Theatre Saturday.

Speaking from his tour bus near Red Deer, Alberta, the Juno award-winning player, and Cowichan favourite, was amped about locally unloading tunes from his fresh Blue Guitar Sessions CD that’s hybrid of his famed flamenco style.

“It’s the blue guitar, not the blues guitar, sessions,” clarified Cook, who last sold out the theatre in 2009.

“It’s blue in the sense of melancholy — the feeling you get at two in the morning when you’re all alone, and want to put on a record that’s the soundtrack of that misery.”

Cook’s brooding songs will be backed by violinist Chris Church, guitarist Nicolas Hernandez, drummer and percussionist Chendy Leon, and bassist-guitarist Dennis Mohammed.

They’ll also perform numbers from Toronto-based Cook’s other seven discs that have sold more than a million copies worldwide.

“On every record, I take what I do and put it into a different context,” he said. “Here, I wanted to put my music in the context where every track has a certain melancholy pace to it.”

Think blue strains by Mile Davis or Nora Jones, he suggested.

“I wanted a beat so you can put it on and leave it on; loud and bombastic is where I live, but didn’t want to do a record like that this time.”

Instead, Sessions boasts mostly two guitars plus some backing work by Cook’s crew.

“Chris Church played the saw on a song or two. We try and create another world where you’re not always sure where the sounds came from.”

Paris-born Cook, 49, has been recording and performing internationally for almost two decades.

He’s a three-time recipient of the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for Guitarist of the Year.

Cook’s platter, The Rumba Foundation, debuted at number-one on iTunes Canada, and the DVD for the release premiered on PBS.

That TV exposure grabbed global gigs for Cook and company.

“Probably the biggest thing that happened to us is PBS started playing our stuff,” he said, citing multi-city tours plus crucial American success.

“The world takes its cue from the U.S. Because of PBS were getting a lot more interest from around the world.”

Enter irony.

“We discovered of the top 20 cities in the world where we have interest, there’s 10 cities we’ve never been to — including Damascus, and Baghdad.

“I’m not sure I’d like to go there right now, but I’m glad people there like my music.”

Apolitical Cook conquers Kiev in about two months.

“In music, you can cross borders and not get involved in the nastiness. I just have to worry about the music and my feelings, not which political side I’m on.”

He was worried about his hit Mario Takes A Walk being plagiarized by Bollywood as the tune Dhoom Dhoom.

“We looked into litigation but our lawyers in India called it ‘cultural appropriation.’”

Meanwhile, Cook’s content is lending new flavours to flamenco and rumba.

“Music changes but flamenco comes in waves in and out of the popular consciousness. It’s not for everybody, but those who connect to it, connect in a big way.”


Your ticket

What: Jesse Cook: The Blue Guitar tour

When: March 8, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Cowichan Theatre

Tickets: $45. Call 250-748-7529.

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