Jesse Cook Paramount Theatre Denver, CO October 24, 2023
Flamenco fusion guitarist Jesse Cook had a rocky start to his tour of the Western States three weeks ago. "Yup! It finally got me. I thought I could avoid it, but almost four years after COVID arrived, it finally struck me down this past week," Cook told his social media followers. Coincidently, the guitarist's latest release is titled Love in the Time of COVID (Coach House Music).
Cook's October 1 show at Denver's Zig Zag Art Deco Paramount Theatre was re-scheduled for last Monday, and his loyal fans came out in full support. A senior fan seated behind me proudly proclaimed she flew in from New Mexico for her sixth Cook concert.
In his opening, Cook apologized for rescheduling. "You really wouldn't have wanted to see me three weeks ago, but I'm feeling great now!" Cook opened with a fiery rendition of his signature song, "Tempest."
Cook's a passionate guitarist and a master of multiple genres: flamenco, world, and jazz. His unique ability to seamlessly blend these together creates an amazing live performance.
Cook strode onstage solo, surrounded by unattended instruments, and slowly added the members of his energetic band one by one. Percussionist/drummer Marito Marquesa Grammy, Latin Grammy, and Juno nomineewas first up. Throughout the evening, Marques played various percussion instruments (shaker, cajón, bongos, etc.), giving the compositions an extra punch. A spiral cymbal stacker sounded like waves crashing.
Fellow Canadian and protégé flamenco guitarist Matt Sellick followed. Cook reminisced that the young guitarist had sent him links to his performance videos, which so impressed him that he added Sellick to the touring band five years ago.
Toronto bassist Dan Minchom was up next, providing a funky groove and foundation to Cook's sound. Algeria-born Fethi Nadjem completed the mix, with a style of music on his bent knee-resting violin and mandolin that Cook called "Arabic Andaluse."
Cook chuckled at the intro music played by the soundboard for each arriving membera little humor for the last show in the road tourBrit Dan Michom's intro was the theme from The Benny Hill Show. The good humor and high audience involvement with spirited clapping rhythms continued throughout the show.
After a brief intermission, Cook and company returned to the stage to perform "Havana," led by a searing violin intro, and an increasingly dramatic pace. Starting with all players on stools, Cook and Sellick soon stood side by side and captivated the audience with their electrifying fretwork, especially on songs like "Azul," a huge YouTube hit. The audience erupted with spontaneous shouts and applause.
The highlight of this set was "On Walks The Night," an eerie but enchanting tune with Cook and Sellick pairing off while Marques added a hypnotic beat. To complement the music's chilling tone, Minchom embellished it with deep wall-vibrating synth effects, followed by fuzz bass.
Then, to lull us out of our mellow Middle Eastern mood, Cook announced, "Do you think we can have a bit of a crazy Denver Rhumba Party this evening?" The crowd cheered approvingly and rose to their feet to dance a medley of rhumba songs for twelve minutes. A steel drum and mallet, conga, and gourd added irresistible rhythms while guitarists' flying fingers raced the length of the necks.
The musicians regularly added perfectly timed stops mid-song to enhance the drama, followed by thunderous restarts and furious dueling Flamenco guitars. The multitalented band members also shifted places to add percussion, and at one point, drummer Marques played an eerie flute. Cook used looping to add compelling layers of rhythm to several songs.
The enthralled audience jumped up, standing and clapping for a first, second, and third encore. With just a refreshing swig from their water bottles, Cook and Sellick performed a lovely unplugged, harmonic duet of Crowded House's "Fall At Your Feet," a sort of bluegrass-flamenco delight. The band members all hugged, and Cook folded his hands in gratitude to the audience with his final thank you before leaving the stage.
1: Tempest; La Ruma d' Ele jefe; Satie's; Virtue; Baghdad; Breathing Below The Surface; Luna Llena; Viva. 2: Havana; Azul; Etrics; Switchback; Cancion Trist; On Walks The Night (Arabic Spanish Guitar); Rumba Medley.
Mario; Café Mocha; Fall At Your Feet.
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