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A Globe Full of Music

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World music guitarist Jesse Cook brings flamenco, jazz, and classical styles fused with global influence to the McGlohon.

Guitar virtuoso Jesse Cook, brings his five piece band to the McGlohon Sunday evening as part of his “One World” U.S. tour.

The classically trained Canadian guitarist is known for fusing far reaching and disparate musical traditions into rhythmically sonic musical tapestries. ‘One World,’ Cook’s ninth studio album, released in the U.S. this past fall debuting in the top 10 on both Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums and World Album chart. Its haunting Egyptian perfumed rhythms, lyrical Armenian dudek tinged melodies, dueling flamenco guitars, violins, and Latin percussion filled instrumentals take listeners on a musical journey that is both exotic and familiar.

Yet despite selling more than 1.5 million albums worldwide, winning the Canadian Smooth Jazz Guitarist of the Year award three times, a Juno Award – Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy, Cook often struggles with a categorization conundrum facing artists whose work melds various styles and influences from unconnected regions of the globe.

“People never know what bin to put my music in,” said Cook when reached by phone earlier this month. “World Music is an umbrella used for music from some other part of the world. Whether it’s Indonesian Gamelan music, Japanese Koto music, Bongo music from India, or flamenco, it tends to get thrown into this very nonspecific category.”

Cook has learned to shrug off the imprecise nomenclature regarding his style and allow his music to speak for itself. Fans appreciate his hybridization of jazz, classical, and flamenco playing styles. His concerts are a musical travelogue reflective of Cook’s many explorations around the planet.

Performing live allows him to leave the precision of the recording studio and play with a looser style, experimenting and jamming freely with his band. Listeners are embraced one moment with haunting tonal qualities evoking Cairo corner cafes, transported to the Louisiana bayou the next with Cajun feel of Buckwheat Zydeco (a collaborator of Cooks) complete with Acadian accordion, and finally taken to Madrid with inspiring Latin laced sounds of rumba dance parties.

“What I find interesting in music are those points of intersection existing between music of different cultures. I get excited by music that builds a bridge,” said Cook. “Some musicians want to excel at a particular musical form and learn all the rules. I want to learn the rules, but then I want to break them. When I work with other artists, we don’t have a prototype, we just figure it out.”

Often categorized as a flamenco guitarist, Cook eschews that notion, preferring instead to identify with various techniques he’s studied as opposed to being bound by the traditions and underpinnings of each genre.

“I am a student of flamenco and while there are those elements in what I do, I am not taking the flamenco form or tradition,” said Cook. Flamenco is a very structured type of music. It’s evolving and changing, yet it’s changing within its structure and its rules. The first thing I do is throw the rules out.”

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