Cook, a Canadian Juno Award-winning guitarist, is touring in support of his recent album release, “The Blue Guitar Sessions.” According to his website, the musician found inspiration for the new recording while listening to Adele’s “21.”
“It was the simplicity of it,” Cook says of Adele’s work. “For me it was amazing that an album, where many of the tracks were just voice and piano, was a pop record. I loved it. It creates a world where we get to really hear her voice and also the pianist can be more expressive. It just becomes a much more intimate album, a much more personal album and I thought I would love to do that.”
His appreciation of Adele’s work emboldened him to tackle a long simmering personal objective and create a “blue mood” record. He spent the summer of 2011 cottage-hopping with his family and set about writing material for his eighth studio album, “The Blue Guitar Sessions.”
A change in course
According to his biography at website of his booking agent, The Feldman Agency, “The Blue Guitar Sessions” is much different from the rumba flamenco for which he is best known.
A leading proponent of the genre since bursting onto the world music scene with 1995’s “Tempest,” Cook has received many accolades, including, in 2008, winning the silver medal in Acoustic Guitar magazine’s prestigious Players’ Choice Awards behind the legendary Paco De Lucia.
But Toronto resident – who was born in Paris to John Cook, a film director, and his wife Heather, a former CBC television producer – has steered clear of anything resembling flamenco on this record, producing a sound that allows listeners to appreciate each musician’s contribution. To do so he also battled his natural instinct to fill in space.
“It’s a big departure from the work I have done in the past,” he says in the biographical sketch. “And there’s a fear that if you do something drastically different, will there still be someone there to listen to it if you change?”
Cook feels that the role of an artist is to change, to constantly push forward and try and come up with something new.
“I don't want to spend the rest of my life repeating my first few records,” Cook says. “So I decided I was going to do it.”
The result is a captivating 14-track album recorded on a pair of vintage microphones – microphones for which Cook exhaustively searched so he could authentically replicate the mood of recordings from the Miles Davis era. Sound is of the utmost importance to him as a musician, producer and engineer. “The Blue Guitar Sessions” is best enjoyed through a room-filling home stereo system – like the old days.
The track “Broken Moon” features Cook’s extraordinary guitar accompanied by cellist Amy Laing. Tom Szczniak adds accordion to “Witching Hour,” a melodic composition hinting at Cook’s Parisian roots. Toronto vocalist Emma-Lee makes an appearance on “I Put a Spell on You,” a cover of the song written by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and popularized by Nina Simone and Jeff Beck. Longtime collaborator violinist Chris Church makes several appearances in just the right spots.
Tampa Bay area audiences will soon discover how well “The Blue Guitar Sessions” translates to live performances.
The Capitol Theatre performance will include songs from more familiar work as well as material from the new album. Cook’s previous albums include “Tempest” (1995), “Gravity” (1996), “Vertigo” (1998), “Free Fall” (2000), “Nomad” (2003), “Frontiers” (2008) and “The Rumba Foundation” (2009). Five of these were nominated for Juno Awards and one, “Free Fall,” won a Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album.
Joining Cook on stage are the musicians that have become as familiar to fans as Cook himself: Chris Church, Rosendo “Chendy” Leon, Nicholas Hernandez and Dennis Mohammed.
“What I found is that the longer the five of us played together, we really gelled and had a sense of what our domains were,” Cook said in a press release from his publicist. “Each member grew within their domain to make it something really big. We all learned to fill our space.”