Although often referred to as a flamenco guitarist, Jesse Cook – who performs at the Lobero Theater on August 24 – sees himself more as a world musician. “I consider myself to be very influenced by flamenco music, clinical techniques and the guitar itself,” Cook said in a phone interview from his studio in Toronto. “I try to play music that represents my life: part Spain and Parklands, but also part North America, where people come here from all over the world.”
He is currently on tour with his 11th studio album, Free; the 10-track release combines Cook’s signature Spanish flair with Algerian multi-instrumentalist Fethi Nadjem, modern trap beats and 808 beats.
Written and recorded during the pandemic, Free was inspired in part by the playlists Cook’s then 14-year-old daughter shared with him, many of which were inspired by trap (a subgenre of hip-hop) and 808 (a staple of beats hip-hop originating from the Roland TR-808 drum machine).
When asked if her daughter was a musical influence, Cook laughed and said, “You know how teenagers change every year; they are a totally different person. So I have to be very clear: she was my daughter two summers ago; she’s in a totally different time now. But the more he listened, the more intrigued he became, and he began to incorporate some of his rhythms into his compositions.
At that time, he was also recording a YouTube series, Love in the time of COVID – a reimagining of past songs in a series of videos he posts weekly on his social media platforms in 2021, which he played all the instruments on, recorded and filmed himself.
Known for his videos as well as music, Cook said, “What I love about social media is that it doesn’t matter if it’s incredibly well recorded, or if it was expensive or hard to do… if there is something magical about what you do… people will find it and share it. And once that happens, it takes on a kind of life of its own.
After Love in the time of COVID, Cook returned to the current record and realized that it was missing some world musical instruments. He called a lot of friends and got all kinds of exotic instruments from all over the world on the tracks, “and I started to like him a lot more – that’s why the record is called Free (“free” in Spanish).
Now that he’s finally been able to hit the road and share those tunes with an audience, Cook said it’s been a revelation after 25 years of touring. “I’ve always liked that. But it was also always kind of a love-hate relationship, where to do what you love – playing music – you had to leave your family. … Having spent over two years sitting at home with my family, I’m pretty happy to be back on the road and performing live with people in front of an audience.
Jesse Cook performs at the Lobero Theater (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Wednesday, August 24 at 8 p.m. For more information, visit lobero.org/events/jesse-cook.
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