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Jesse Cook

Ultimate Jesse Cook

Format: CD   Release Date: 10/25/2005
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Ultimate Jesse Cook doesn't give fans any bonus material, not even the DVD content so popular with mid-2000s retrospectives. But, while it skimps on the extras, the two-disc, 26-song set is a perfect abstract of the guitarist's work for Narada. The 2004 live recording, Montréal, only gets one track ("Closer to Madness"), but Cook's five studio albums are all represented well. The set isn't chronological, but by mixing the songs up, Ultimate Jesse Cook heightens the crossroads quality of Cook's music. In one moment he's a flamenco master, the next a new age interpreter, and he explores Arabic sounds with just as much ease, and while Cook isn't afraid to streamline his influences for the sake of pop accessibility, he's respectful of them, too. For instance, the new age side of his sound never overtakes his curiosity and virtuosity as a guitarist and bandleader. Sometimes breezy synthesizers, and occasionally a percussion instrument, feel "painted in" for effect rather than meaning, but that's rare, and as he's proven over the years with Narada, Jesse Cook offers fusion, subtlety, and most of all evocative playing. Collection highlights include Tempest's title track, "Early on Tuesday" (featuring Sammy Llanas from BoDeans), Freefall's propulsive "Switchback," the organic/digital play of "Byzantium Underground," and the memorable Cajun touches in "That's Right." ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi

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