Jazz CD Reviews

Jesse Cook – The Blue Guitar Sessions – eOneMusic

New ground but no breakthrough.

Published on November 1, 2012

Jesse Cook – The Blue Guitar Sessions – eOneMusic

Jesse Cook – The Blue Guitar Sessions – eOneMusic 2441 47:06 ***:

(Jesse Cook – guitar; Amy Laing – cello; Tom Szczesniak – piano, accordion; Chris Church – violin; Emma-Lee – vocals; Pat Collins – bass; Maninho Costa – percussion; Chendy Leon – drums, percussion)

Jesse Cook is a Toronto-based musician who has an international reputation as a rumba flamenco guitarist, and has won a number of Canadian music awards, including a Juno and the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for guitarist of the year. In this release called The Blue Guitar Sessions he is trying to expand his style into new ground which he does with some success.

Jesse Cook is a crisp guitarist with a strong lyrical footing but does not stray too far from his musical comfort zone. This outing of fourteen tracks is mainly Cook originals, with the exception of Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” and that Jacques Brel French classic “Ne Me Quitte Pas”. These two tunes are vocals by Toronto singer Emma-Lee. In the case of the former we are offered a restrained out of body version that belies the original, and the Brel tune is given a heartfelt but standard reading.

Cook was born in Paris France to Canadian parents and spent his early years in France and Spain where he developed a fascination for the gypsy guitar style of Manitas de Plata. Eventually returning to Canada, he completed his musical education by attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The intention with this session was to break away from the tried and true flamenco format and to look for something jazzier and open. However relying on his compositions for the most part to accomplish this may not have been the best approach. Although beautifully played by Cook and his cohorts, all the tunes are mostly done the same style and tempo and tend to become background music with a couple of exceptions. On “Broken Moon” there is a novel cello interlude by Amy Laing, and on “Witching Hour” Tom Szczesniak’s accordion adds a banks of the Seine feel.

The breakthrough that Jesse Cook was looking for will have to wait to another time.

TrackList: I Put A Spell On You; Broken Moon; Witching Hour; Toybox; Fields Of Blue; Miles Shorter; Gone; Ne Me Quitte Pas; Diminished; The Road; Ocean Blue; You; When Night Turns; Midnight

—Pierre Giroux

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