Guitar Whiz Jesse Cook Comes to Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre

Internationally Acclaimed Musician Combines Spanish Guitar, Trap Rhythm, and 808 Beats

Credit: Matt Barnes

Though he’s often referred to as a flamenco guitarist, Jesse Cook — who performs at the Lobero Theatre on August 24 — sees himself as more of a world musician. “I think of myself as being very influenced by flamenco music, and clinical techniques, and the guitar itself,” said Cook, in a phone interview from his studio in Toronto. “I’m trying to play music that represents my life: part Spain and Parklands, but also part North America, where people come here from all over the world.”

He is currently touring with his 11th studio album, Libre; the 10-track release combines Cook’s iconic Spanish-flavored flair with Algerian multi-instrumentalist Fethi Nadjem, modern trap rhythms, and 808 beats.

Written and recorded during the pandemic, Libre was inspired in part by the playlists Cook’s then-14-year-old daughter shared with him, many of which were inspired by trap (a subgenre of hip-hop) and 808 (a staple of hip-hop beats that originally came from the Roland TR-808 drum machine). 

When asked about his daughter being a musical influence, Cook laughed and said, “You know how teenagers change every year; they’re a totally different person. So I do have to be very clear: This was my daughter two summers ago; she’s in a totally different period now.” But the more he listened, the more intrigued he became, and he started incorporating some of her beats into his compositions.


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At that time, he was also recording a YouTube series, Love in the Time of COVID — a reimagining of past songs in a series of videos he’s released weekly across his social media platforms during 2021, and on which he played all the instruments, recorded, and filmed himself. 

Known for his videos as well as the music, Cook said, “What I love about social media is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s incredibly well-recorded, or if it was expensive or difficult to make … if there’s something magical in what you make … people will find it and share it. And once that happens, it kind of takes on a life of its own.”

After Love in the Time of COVID, Cook came back to the current record and realized what it was missing was world music instruments. He called up a lot of friends and got all sorts of exotic instruments from all over the world on the tracks, “and I started liking it a whole lot more — that’s why the record is called Libre (‘free’ in Spanish).”

Now that he’s finally been able to get out on the road and share those tracks for an audience, Cook said it’s been a bit of a revelation after 25 years of touring. “I’ve always loved it. But it also was always kind of a love-hate relationship, where in order to do the thing you love — playing music — you had to leave your family. … Having spent the last two-plus years sitting at home with my family, I’m pretty happy to get back out on the road and play live with people in front of an audience.”

Jesse Cook performs at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Wednesday, August 24, at 8 p.m. For more information, visit lobero.org/events/jesse-cook.


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