Jesse Cook brings guitar music of the world to Skokie

Acoustic guitarist Jesse Cook
Acoustic guitarist Jesse Cook

Called the prince of rumba flamenca with jaw-dropping technique, Jesse Cook comes to Skokie Aug. 14 ready to drop more jaws as well as perform pieces that show off his moodier, softer side.

The Canadian acoustical guitarist has traveled to Cuba, Colombia, Egypt and other countries to absorb the music — and each has influenced his style and compositions.

Winner of the Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album, “Free Fall,” in 2000, Cook has garnered a host of other accolades and sold more than 1.5 million records.

He was born in France, moved to Spain and then to Canada when he was 4 years old, starting lessons at age 6.

“I didn’t like the classical repertoire for guitars,” he said. “It was pretty limited. I’d go to concerts and they were all playing the same pieces I was playing when I was 12.I though what is there to look forward to?”

Plenty.

Cook went on to study at Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music, York University and the legendary Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has since released eight albums.

His first, Tempest, features him playing acoustic guitar, jdembe (a West African hand drum,) darbuka (a Middle Eastern hand drum) and other instruments from various countries.

Album No. 8 was a departure, one he had been thinking about for eight years, he said.

He named the album, Blue Guitar Sessions. “I didn’t think people would assume it would be blues guitar music – though,” which at first they did, he said.

“It’s not blues at all. I was trying to create a record that was unapologetically melancholy. I found myself listening to those kinds of records. And yet, I’ve never made one.

“It was about being less – so many people have talked about music as the space between the notes – it’s not what you say, but what you don’t say. That can be powerful. On this record, I had to fight myself, because my inclination as more is more.”

He’ll be producing another record this year, composing music, which he said “is certainly not blues music. It’s certainly not quiet. I’m going probably in the opposite direction – loud and bombastic.”

Cook said he’s yet to visit India, and he’d like to go there and then produce an album with influences from that area. “I want to learn all the beautiful music that’s there,” he said.

Cook said his Aug. 14 concert will include the breadth of his repertoire from the moody pieces to the wildly energetic, finger-flying sounds for which he is famous.

Through it all, Cook says, he is a composer, “and the guitar is my voice in music. I compose the music. I produce the music. Most of the time, I mix the records. For me it’s the whole thing.”

Jesse Cook

Where:North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd.

When: 7:30 p.m., Aug. 14

Cost: $38-$58

For more info call (847) 673-6300 or visit northshorecenter.org

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