Well, dressed music lovers gathered early, even before the doors opened, on a sleepy November night at the ornate Saban Theater in the heart of Beverly Hills. The occasion was a much-anticipated sold-out performance by Canadian guitarist extraordinaire Jesse Cook on his “Follow The Road Tour." The singer, guitarist, composer, and producer has been named one of the most influential figures in "nuevo flamenco” music. But the talented maestro led his band through two sets of music that employed all sorts of world music influences, not confined to any specific genre. Cook and his veteran backing quartet sound a bit like Leo Kottke meets Mahavishnu Orchestra and pretty much any guitar-driven sound in between the two.
The charismatic Cook frequently bantered with the crowd and seemed genuinely delighted to be playing the Saban. When he first sauntered onstage, he thanked the crowd for inviting him back to the majestic venue and noted there were a good deal more people in the audience for this performance. For those not familiar with the world of Canadian Smooth Jazz, Cook is a three-time winner of the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award and has been reducing his unique take on world music sounds since 1995. The set included older tunes. Cook mentioned on this tour that he is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his first studio album, Tempest, and he included the title cut, “Cascada," and another tune “Baghdad” from the album.
The evening featured some of his fan-favorite songs stretched across the two-set performance including, “Luna Lena,” “Cafe Mocha,” “Havana,” To Your Shore,” “Wed Ngt at Etric’s,” “Luna Llena,” “On Walks The Ngt,” “Once,” the magnificent “Viva,” “Cafe Mocha,” “Shake,” “Cascada,” “Switchback,” and “Bogota By Bus.” Cook ended the second set with a well-known tune. The mostly elderly audience finally jumped to their feet for a little dancing during the high energy “Rumba Medley.” After an extended standing ovation, Cook then played a three-song encore, including “Mario,” “Fall At Your Feet," and “Early On Tuesday," leaving and elated audience to shout their approval. No doubt, the prodigious performer will return to the Saban sooner than later for another unpredictably fabulous performance.