October 25, 2005
New Age, Contemporary Instrumental, Guitar/New Age, Ethnic Fusion, Flamenco, Western European Traditions

Album Review

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

Track Listing

  1. Mario Takes a Walk
  2. Air
  3. Paloma
  4. Byzantium Underground
  5. Baghdad
  6. Surrender
  7. Switchback
  8. Brio
  9. Red
  10. Early on Tuesday
  11. Vreeze from Saintes Maries
  12. Breathing Below Surface
  13. Closer to Madness [Live]
  14. That's Right!
  15. Tempest
  16. Rattle and Burn
  17. Azul
  18. Gravity
  19. Fall at Your Feet
  20. Dance of Spring
  21. Into the Dark
  22. On Walks the Night
  23. Gipsy
  24. Waiting for Tide
  25. Cascada
  26. Toca Orilla
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