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Jesse Cook

The origins of "Rumba Foundation" can be traced back to the 1800’s when sailors arrived in Spain with a new rhythm named rumba brought all the way from Cuba. This accessible and upbeat style of flamenco has attracted people across the globe. Rumba flamenco music reflects the soul of the gypsies, the passion of flamenco and the irresistible beats of Cuba.

Influenced by Natacha Atlas, Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia, Peter Gabriel, Vicente Amigo and the Gipsy Kings,
the charismatic rumba flamenco artist Jesse Cook has blended the exotic Spanish form with the elements of new age jazz.

Jazzreview:Tell us about the Rumba Foundation? How was it formed ?

Jesse: On The Rumba Foundation, I wanted to explore the roots of Rumba flamenca. They believe that the rumba part of this music came from Cuba sometime in the 1800s. My original plan was to return Rumba flamenca to Cuba, completing the circle. Somehow I ended up in Colombia. Now I am calling it ‘Rumba flamenca returns to the Americas.’

Jazzreview: Tell us about your exposure to Rumba Flamenco?
Jesse: Rumba flamenca is a big part of where I come from, musically speaking. I was born in France. I listened to my parent’s Manitas de Plata records as a kid. My first teacher was a flamenco guitarist. Later, my dad retired in Aries where he was neighbors with Nicolas Reyes of the Gypsy Kings. I believe that all of these things probably contributed to my interest in, and eventually devotion to, this type of music.

Jazzreview: The excitement of Vallenato and Rumba Flamenco was excellent! Was that your intention or did it jus happen?

Jesse: I am a long-time fan of Carlos Vives. There is something very infectious about the way he blends traditional Vallenato and Gaita music with popular music. I began to wonder what these music forms would sound like if they were blended with rumba flamenca. I wrote Gaita, Santa Marta and Bogota
By bus and was really happy with the results. But it wasn’t until I actually flew down to Colombia and recorded with Los Gaiteros De San Jacinto that the tracks really became airborne.

Jazzreview: What guitarist do you have the greatest appreciation for?
Jesse: As a toddler, it was Manitas de Plata who got me hooked on the guitar. As a teen, it was the guitar trio of Paca de Lucia , Al Dimeola and John McLaughlin and their live album Friday night in San Francisco, which motivated me to practice 10 hours a day. That album lived on my turntable(then later my CD player) for years. These days, Vicente Amigo is my favorite guitarist to listen to. I saw him give a concert in Jerez, Spain a few years ago. It was the greatest guitar concert I have ever seen.

Jazzreview: I understand that your last concert there were people on their feet , that is dancing at your recent concert as you played rumba flamenco rhythms. Tell me about it.

Jesse: These days, when we play, the entire audience is up dancing at the end of most concerts. It is a rare night when people feel too self-conscious or shy to get up and dance. Some parts of our concert are more listening, and not really appropriate for a rumba party. But usually by the end, people want to get up and dance, even if we are in a conservative symphony concert hall.

Jazzreview: Cecilla by Paul Simon was fun, it is a great inclusion into the collection, what’s your thoughts on doing this particular song?

Jesse: I am a big Simon & Garfunkel fan and I have loved their version of that song my whole life. For years, I have wanted to cover the song, but was hesitant to tackle such a classic. In the end though, I feel that the best way to honor our composers is to play their songs. If we treat music like it is sacred and untouchable it will end up in a museum. So for that reason I recorded the song. I wanted to take the song to a place where rumba flamenca meets Brazilian samba.

Jazzreview: What advice would you have for a musician who might want to model their career after yours?

Jesse: Don’t.

Jazzreview: What image do you think your music conveys?

Jesse: Music is a very subjective art form, especially instrumental music. In most of what I record, there is no singing , no lyrics to tell a story. So I am sure that every individual who listens to my music hears it a little bit differently. My only hope is that it will move people in some way. How, I can not say.

Jazzreview: What are your immediate music career goals?

Jesse: My long-term goals are the same as my short-term goals: get out there and play, write and perform as much music as I can as often as possible. When I was a kid, my mother took me to see the great master Segovia perform at Massey Hall. He was in his seventies and his fingers were as thick as sausages, but he played beautifully. I thought " that is what I want to be doing when I am his age." I still think that.

Jazzreview: Can you share your next project with us?

Jesse: I could , but then I’d have to keeeeell you.

Jazzreview: Jesse Cook’s style is innovative, fresh and exciting. This is great guitar music, and his CD is a must have.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jesse Cook
  • Interview Date: 11/1/2009
  • Subtitle: The Rumba Foundation
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