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Jesse Cook at Musicfest

Paris-born/Toronto-raised Jesse Cook’s career has seen him scale the globe in search of a fusion between the art he has created “back home” and those of genres from other parts of the world. Born out of that quest has been an incorporation of flamenco and jazz with his classical roots.

“Over the years, I’ve taken my music and tried to cross-pollinate it with music from different parts of the world,” explains the 50-year-old global guitar virtuoso. “For the album Nomad, I went to Cairo and recorded with musicians there. On my record The Rumba Foundation, I went to Colombia, and worked with musicians from Cuba as well. On Vertigo, I went down to Lafayette, La., and recorded with Buckwheat Zydeco. For me, the question has always been: Where did you go? Where did you take your guitar?”

The results have been considerable, with Cook garnering 11 Juno nominations and a win for his 2000 instrumental album Free Fall. As an artist, composer, and producer, Cook has embraced technology and the digital realm as a means for creating sonically diverse music.

Freefall features 11 instrumentals, programmed beats and dusty electronic textures are interwoven with syncopated handclaps, deep dubby basslines, and popping percussion. Sitars and violin share the space with synthesizers and sound effects. Cook’s masterful guitar work commands centre stage with an elegant balance of subtlety, in-the-moment honesty and technical prowess. But here, it also pivots between worlds — past and future, familiar and fresh, acoustic and electronic — redefined by technology like every element of modern life.

“We’re all involved with our computers in a big way, though we malign them,” laughs Cook. “People complain social media is ruining communication and that people just text instead of call. But love and romance and imagination and art also happen through computers. People fall in love online. People talk to loved ones on Skype. People write great love letters on the computer, create great works of art, great compositions. It has become this integral part of human expression and I wanted to give it a voice in what I was doing.”Cook has recorded eight studio albums, three live DVDs and has traveled the world exploring musical traditions that he has blended into his style of rumba flamenco.

In addition to headlining concerts and festivals, he has opened for such legends as B.B. King, Ray Charles and Diana Krall. He has performed with Welsh soprano Charlotte Church on The Tonight Show and toured with legendary Irish band, The Chieftains. His music has been featured on several episodes of Sex and The City, TheChris Isaak Show and at multiple Olympic Games. During the 2006 Winter Olympics, Irina Slutskaya of Russia won a bronze medal skating to Cook's composition "Mario Takes a Walk".

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