Guitarist Jesse Cook has the spirit of a gypsy. Born in Paris and raised in Toronto, he has traveled the globe in search of musical traditions that mesh with his rumba flamenco. The destination isn’t always clear but somehow he still finds his way—the 45-year-old has seven studio albums, after all.
His latest record, The Rumba Foundation, led Cook on yet another unexpected adventure. Initially, he intended to trace the roots of rumba in Cuba but somehow he ended up in Colombia. Lured by the Vallenato pop of Carlos Vives, he landed in Bogotá, where he worked with folk music heroes Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto.
Fueled by homemade Ajiaco soup during their jam sessions, the guitarist and the gaiteros (they play the indigenous flutes known as gaitas) turned out 13 mostly-instrumental tracks that range from soulful to festive—just liked the land that inspired them. “I’ve never heard rumba flamenco with vallenato and cumbia from Colombia before,” Cook has said about his production. “They fit together so nicely.”
And he’s right. He’s able to take hold of the rhythm and make sense out of two styles that when blended, make listeners want to get on their feet and dance. Jesse Cook is currently on tour across the world.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at The Rumba Foundation.