By Mike Joyce
Friday, January 25, 2013
File guitarist Jesse Cook’s latest album under “moods indigo.” Intimately arranged, “The Blue Guitar Sessions” emphasizes Cook’s meticulous touch and subdued lyricism while occasionally showcasing vocalist Emma-Lee’s sultry charms.
Cook’s extensive catalog offers colorfully diverse performances that reflect his pop, jazz, blues and flamenco influences, but there’s a lot to be said for the way he sustains this atmospheric collection without triggering snooze-inducing lulls. The inclusion of two songs associated with Nina Simone (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put a Spell on You” and Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas”) proves to be a smart move. Hawkins’s signature hit is the album’s haunting opener, thanks in large part to Emma-Lee’s pitch-perfect contribution, while the Brel ballad, which also features Cook’s vocals, is suffused with a soulful melancholia.
The album's remaining tunes are original pieces that often contrast the sparkling tone of Cook's acoustic guitar with circling percussive grooves or a weave of chamberlike sonics, accented by violin, cello and accordion, and crafted in a minor key. There are engaging shifts in dynamics here and there, such as the jaunty, Parisian-flavored "Witching Hour." And, sure enough, the whimsically titled "Miles Shorter" pays homage to Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. But if Cook intends to aggressively court the kind of pop-jazz airplay he has enjoyed in the past, he seems content to take a breather for now.