He’s a world-class musician, not athlete, but guitarist Jesse Cook has more than his share of Olympic moments.
In 2006, Irina Slutskaya figure skated to Cook’s Mario Takes a Walk instrumental and won a bronze medal for Russia at the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
It happened again when silver- medal winning Russian pairs skaters Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov completed their short program at the 2014 Sochi Olympics to a medley that included Cook’s tune Surrender.
“No one ever thinks to call me first,” said the chuckling guitarist, who performs on Friday, Feb. 28, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
After posting “If they win, do I get a medal too?” on his Facebook page during the Sochi Games earlier this month, dozens of supporters comment- ed on how much his flamenco and new- age compositions mean to them.
One female fan revealed that she regularly paints to Cook’s guitar tunes,
while another recalled walking down the aisle to one of his instrumentals.
Besides all this adoration, Facebook has also provided Cook with some interesting — and surprising — insights into his international fan base.
“I was shocked to discover that out of the Top 10 cities, where people like my music, we haven’t played in five of them. Out of the Top 20, there are about 10 that we haven’t played in,” he said.
Tehran, Bagdad and Jordan fans have not yet been able to catch a live performance by Cook. But that’s not to say the guitarist has been cooling his heels in North America.
Among countries where Cook has toured are Lebanon, Dubai, Korea, Singapore, Japan and China. He’s also played in various locations in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. And soon Russian fans will be able to catch Cook in concert, as he’s embarking on his first-ever tour of that country — obviously overdue given the affinity Russian figure skaters have for his music.
Anyone who sees Cook on the Russian tour — or this Western Canadian one — will see different sides of the musician.
Cook will still play rumba/flamenco selections, but will also perform sparer tunes from his last album, The Blue Guitar Sessions.
It was inspired by the Miles Davis era, and entailed Cook exhaustively searching for the right-sounding mid- ’60s microphone to warm up sounds on the recording.
He finally found a bulky period piece in Los Angeles and purchased it from a private collector. Cook’s sound quality obsession, he admits, strays in- to “geek” territory, but is a side-effect of writing, playing and producing each album according to his own vision.
The Blue Guitar Sessions includes a couple of vintage covers — I Put a Spell on You and Ne Me Quitte Pas, both popularized by Nina Simone.
It also features a dozen original Cook compositions, such as Witching Hour, an accordion-accented piece that hints at his Parisian roots. The musician was born in Paris to film director John Cook and his wife, Heather, a former CBC-TV producer. They later divorced and Cook moved to Canada with his mother.
Cook admitted the biggest challenge in making this 2012 album — even greater than finding the right mike — was putting aside his own propensity for filling up “space” in his music with instrumentation.
“I just tried to work (mainly) with two guitars and leave a lot of space. If I added all these different instruments, the sound would lose something.”
While Cook is not a minimalist and intends to return to a fuller sound for his next album, due out in 2015, he appreciates what Claude Debussy once said: “that music is not about the notes, but the space between the notes.”