Stories » Jesse Cook equips his acoustic guitar, a few song sketches and a wide open mind for 'The Rumba Foundation'

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Jesse Cook equips his acoustic guitar, a few song sketches and a wide open mind for 'The Rumba Foundation'

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If Jesse Cook was an actor instead of a Juno award winning guitarist, he'd be considered a method actor, someone who immerses himself completely in the world of the characters he portrays to deliver authentic performances cloaked in realism. For his eighth album, The Rumba Foundation, the Canadian headed to Colombia equipped with his acoustic guitar, a few song sketches and a wide open mind.

Originally Cook's mission for The Rumba Foundation was to bring his muse - rumba flamenco music - back to rumba's birthplace: Cuba. But then he got in touch with Latin Grammy winners Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, a traditional Vallenato group that makes their own instruments, and was invited to Colombia. The group members arrived in Bogota after a long bus trip and an impromptu living room exchange took place. After feasting on a homemade meal, Cook was asked to play some of the songs he wanted to record with the troupe. From that moment on, a unique fusion of culture and sounds intermingled in the recording studio with Cook producing the Vallenato-meets-rumba flamenco amalgam. He also wrote or co-wrote a dozen compositions for the collection vividly colored and intricately textured with Colombian influences. Adding a dose of pure American pop to the World Music offering, Cook recorded the rhythmic hand-clapping street corner romp "Cecilia," penned by Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel. The disc's first single, "Bogota By Bus," is already making inroads at radio.

"Recording The Rumba Foundation was more challenging than I anticipated. Merging two cultures and finding points of intersection required a bit more work than I imagined, but I think the effort produced a record that is perhaps my best yet," revealed Cook. "There's no point in going all the way down there (Colombia) just to show them what to play. I could do that with session players in my studio at home (Toronto).  Instead I wanted them to freely infuse their culture - including instruments, melodies and rhythms - and bring musical elements to the recording, some of which I had not even heard before."   

Days prior to its official release date, The Rumba Foundation aired in its entirety via syndication through Los Angeles radio station KTWV-FM The Wave on September 25th, the same night Cook will perform and sign CDs at a Los Angeles in-store appearance at Border's (1360 Wilshire Boulevard).  The following night, Cook will perform at The Wave's star-studded concert held at the fabled Greek Theatre. Cook will then embark upon an extensive concert tour schedule starting October 1st in Seattle with dates that run into the New Year and will include an in-store appearance at Border's in Sacramento (2339 Fair Oaks Boulevard) on October 9th. 

Cook first fell in love with rumba flamenco while visiting his father in Arles in the South of France. As a teenager, he jammed with the Gypsy Kings on his father's roof. Two recent Cook albums that went top 5 on the Billboard chart - Frontiers and Nomad - were influenced by voyages to Egypt and Spain much like The Rumba Foundation was shaped by the visit to Colombia. Frontiers camped out for 70 weeks on the Billboard New Age chart and went #1 in 2008 at the same time the album's single, "Cafe Mocha," went top 3 at smooth jazz radio, making Cook the first artist to achieve such a feat.  Respected as a prodigious guitarist, Cook was named the silver medal winner in Acoustic Guitar magazine's 2009 Player's Choice Awards. A charismatic entertainer who has sold over one million albums worldwide, the ruggedly-handsome Cook has performed captivating concerts for sold-out crowds all over the map, which has spawned a truly global fan base. His Canadian platinum-selling Jesse Cook Live at the Metropolis DVD, recorded at the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival, was recognized with a Juno nomination.