The Flamenco Flames of Jessie Cook

In keeping with my promise of diversity on this blog, and, the promise to share cultural and other events on the Oregon Coast, here is my latest concert review: 

“Who is Jesse Cook?” “I don’t know.”

“Male or female?” “I don’t know.”

“Singer?” “I don’t know.”

This was some of the chat prior to the Seacoast Entertainment Association’s Jesse Cook concert at the Florence Events Center on Friday, January 29, 2016. During the pre-concert talk, it became clear that Jesse Cook was not only a pleasant and highly humorous presence but also a very popular performer.

Having never given a pre-concert talk before, Cook asked for questions. After answering a few of them, Cook realized many in the room had been to his concerts before. He asked how many had been to more than one of his concerts. Hands went up for 5, 6, 7 and even 9 concerts by what were obviously huge Jesse Cook fans. Many out-of-town attendees in this audience had been to his concert the night before in Eugene and were planning to attend his concert the following night in Seattle.

It gives new meaning to the term “he has a following.” That’s how good Cook and his band are.

On stage, the lighting was just enough to enable the first of 5 musicians to find their way out to start the strains of Cook’s original composition that borrows from traditional music so ancient there is no known author. During the pre-concert talk, Cook was asked who in the music field influenced him and one of his answers was The Gypsy Kings, a very famous traditional and modern music ensemble with a style all their own. Their musical style could definitely be heard in this piece and in many of the pieces performed by Cook and his band during the evening.

JesseCook-1

As a composer and album producer, while borrowing from ancient traditional music and Gypsy King styling, Cook still manages to create exciting new music all his own. Mastery of guitar and instrumentation combine into artful uniqueness. The energy level never let up. It all appeared so easy and yet one knew it had to be exhausting in the end.

During the pre-concert talk there was discussion about one of Cook’s past performances of “Cancion Triste.” Cook stated that it is a sad song but the audience comment was that it was more relaxing than sad. However, with eyes closed you could see, hear and feel the ocean waves rolling onto the shore and back out again with every breath of the music. At one point there was the surprising echo of a fog horn.

Cook played with some of the most talented musicians to ever grace the FEC stage. The multi-talented Chris Church plays violin, concertina and learned to play the haunting Armenian duduk expertly for one particular tune. Church also displayed a singing voice to envy.

JesseCook-2

Dennis Mohammad provided the all important bass rhythms with great energy and excitement. Nicholas Hernandez on flamenco guitar perfectly complimented Cook. Both musicians were outstanding with the flamenco hand clapping that gives this style of music so much verve.

Late into the program the audience was surprised to learn that this was Juan Mendrano’s second performance with this group. The only word to describe Mendrano’s talents on trap set, ethnic drums, a box, a tin can and unusual percussion tools is amazing. It just cannot be easy for a young man from Columbia to suddenly and quickly be performing the intricate rhythms of Armenian styled music.

Cook is an engaging performer who brings great humor to the stage and brings the audience to its feet often. During the first encore piece, Paul Simon’s “Cecilia,” the entire sold out crowd was on their feet singing, clapping and swaying with the music.

It was difficult to catch titles for the music. The last song was something about rain falling down, which may have been the title, and, was very telling as to the vast amount of talent on stage. Guitars were unplugged, amps and mikes were turned off and only the sounds of pure acoustics and human voice were heard. As Church sang this song with harmonies by Cook and the rest of the band accompanying, his enviable voice rang beautifully throughout the hall with great timbre and projection.

Presented by SEA producers, Linda Gargis and Steve Dennis, Jesse Cook was the third of SEA’s 2015 – 2016 concert season. Don’t miss SEA’s next exciting concert, “Ballet Fantastique,” on Saturday, February 20th. Call the FEC box office for tickets at 541-997-1994.

FEC in Florence, Oregon is just 45 minutes from Umpqua River Haven. So much great talent close by. Listen below to “Cancion Triste.”

4 thoughts on “The Flamenco Flames of Jessie Cook

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