2007 / EMI Music Canada
Review by Michael Debbage
It has been three years since Jesse Cook’s last studio project Nomad. Much like its title it seemed to use the world as its stage and foundation for the musical themes that were presented. Though not quite as global, Frontiers once again represents another stellar performance from the flamenco guitarist. Technically brilliant, Cook continues to create and embrace beautiful melodious memoirs that will leave his fans once again delighted in his latest recording.
Prior to Frontiers, Cook also recorded his stellar 2004 live performance Montreal that was released in 2005 on Narada. According to Cook’s liner notes it was around the time of that performance that both he and his wife retreated to Seville, Spain where they spent a spectacular four months inhaling the culture. Apparently the romantic environment also resulted in them finding out that they would soon be parents for the first time. Once again, Jesse cleared out his schedule and had time to complete the songs you are about to hear.
Frontiers has a more defining European-Mediterranean theme to it, merging celebrative and reflective moments. Wisely, the album is well sequenced opening with the toe tapping “Matisse The Cat” that will leave your flamenco appetite purring for more. Typical of a Jesse Cook song, the melody will immediately bury itself in your memory which is then filled in with intricate details driven by pulsating percussion. This song will be mentioned in the same breath as his other wonders “Rattle And Hum”, “Tempest” and “Mario Takes A Walk” just to name a few. Another soon to be classic is “Havana” which musically parallels the exotic location that it speaks of. The slight twist is what sounds like a combination of string and horn integration that thrusts the song along.
In fact, Frontiers has a little of everything. Cook attempts to repeat the success of the vocal track “Fall At Your Feet” from his Free Fall album. This time around he covers the Bob Dylan classic “It Ain’t Me Babe”, featuring the simple yet pure vocal rendition of Melissa McClelland. Interestingly, it is sequenced right next to the culturally diverse “La Llorona” that spotlights the vocals of Amanda Martinez and Maryem Tollar.
Otherwise, the album focuses on the “voice” of Jesse Cook who along with his band mates roams through a barrage of well structured and thoughtful mid tempo tracks. This is best exemplified by the refreshing “Café Mocha” that also features the melodramatic violin embellishments of Chris Church. In utter contrast, Cook closes out the album with the stripped down “Alone”. Epitomizing its title, the song is simply Cook left alone with his guitar, no more no less. The only downside is that the track is a little short but it will leave a craving for more solitaire moments.
Essentially created back in 2005, Frontiers has been a long time coming and strangely at the time of writing this review it is still limited to a Canadian release via EMI Music Canada. Thus accessibility continues to be difficult and prices hard to swallow although keep in mind this also includes a DVD sampler of his upcoming full length concert. However, Amazon’s Canadian website has the album at a very reasonably price. That difficulty aside, this is a frontier more than worth exploring as Jesse Cook once again presents very clear evidence why he continues to dominate the flamenco guitar genre.
January 1, 2007
Review by Michael Debbage