Inspiration comes in many ways. For Jesse Cook, the search for inspiration has been a journey, literally.
For his 2003 album Nomad, Cook went to Cairo and recorded with musicians there. For his 2009 album, the Rumba Foundation, he worked with Colombian and Cuban musicians. In 1998, for Vertigo, he travelled to Lafayette, La. to record with Buckwheat Zydeco.
But for his latest album, One World, it all happened at home, with the spark being provided by his then seven-year-old son, who wanted to experiment with dad’s computer one day.
“When I came back, he had some screen open that I had never seen before on the program I use,” said Cook. “He was working with loops and detuning them … I thought, that looks like fun, get out of that chair and let me in there.
“The album was underway before I even knew I was doing it.”
After two decades of criss-crossing the world in restless pursuit of inspiration, innovation and collaboration, the Paris-born, Toronto-raised Cook changed course for One World, his ninth studio album. Instead of exotic locales, he stayed home in his studio. Instead of a foreign legion of performers, he relied on his own devices. And instead of exploring cul de sacs of music — flamenco, classical, rumba, world beat, pop, blues or jazz — he united them.
Cook is bringing that new music to Penticton on June 3, with a 7:30 p.m. performance at the Cleland Theatre.
Cook said the album was initially computer-driven electronica but he began adding more traditional and world music instruments. Listening to the finished album, it all weaves effortlessly together to produce a smooth, comfortable, soothing groove.
Soothing isn’t a word Cook would use himself, and finds it a surprising reaction.
“People always say that, and I keep asking what kind of people find this soothing? But I hear that a lot,” said Cook, who admits that he might be negating the soothing effect by playing his music at loud volumes.
The music itself clearly reflects Cooks love in the nuevo flamenco sound, but eastern influences are also easily discerned.
“That’s always been something I have enjoyed and toyed with a little bit,” said Cook. He points out that there is a historical connection, with the Moors that controlled Spain for centuries influencing gypsy music and eventually flamenco.
“When you take modern rhumba flamenco and you mix it with Arabic or Middle Eastern music, there is a real interesting thing that happens. You can feel they have a shared root,” said Cook.
Shared roots is a major theme for this album, whose cover depicts a vast ancient tree.
“On this record, it’s not really about going someplace,” he said. “The idea is that there really is just one world. If you pull your focus back far enough, you start to see all music as being branches of the same tree. They’re all connected to the same trunk from way back.”
Cook often includes a vocal track or two on his albums, but in this case, he has stuck to only instrumental music.
“I often find that if you are doing a whole record and it has a certain feel and then it has a vocal, it can really break the flow. A vocal is a very powerful thing,” said Cook. “I like those records that you can put them on and just live in them.
“I am sure the record company would have been much happier if I had a vocal track on it, because it gives them something to take to radio.”
Making it as an instrumentalist is rare, and while Cook is one of the most successful to come out of Canada, he jokes that he didn’t have much choice.
“Luckily, I don’t have an option. I don’t sing. If I actually tried singing, I don’t think those records would do so well,” said Cook. “The fact that I can make a living and not have not have to drive a cab to support it, let alone tour the world and play in nice theatres, is miraculous.
One World is currently No. 1 on the Amazon and iTunes Jazz charts in Canada, and seven of the songs are on the Top 20 Jazz song charts. The album stayed at No. 1 on the World Music Sales charts for the three straight weeks, and debuted No. 10 overall on Soundscan, his biggest first week in three albums.