Ottmar Liebert’s popular Nouveau Flamenco sound has never paid strict homage to the history of Spanish guitar; rather, it has combined tradition with modern pop influences to create an accessible style that successfully bridges new age, jazz and world beat. Paris born, Toronto bred Jesse Cook draws from the same ancient rhythms, but takes even more aggressive liberties with the form. So much so, in fact, that he labels the back sleeve of his new Narada Equinox disc, Gravity, with a colorful explanation of his unique hybrid: “Gravity is Rumba Flamenco World Beat Jazz Pop.” On most of Gravity’s tracks, Cook gives Melo free reign to create the entire rhythmic base, even to the point of leaving a conventional drum kit off entirely. The mutual trust between the guitarist and Melo is chronicled in the energetic opening tune, “Mario Takes a Walk.” Cook was also able to secure the services of world renowned bassist Tony Levin, whose pop-meets-world beat chops have been tapped by Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. Cook also decided that Gravity would benefit from a few more moments of introspection and soft romance than he included on the mostly uptempo Tempest. He strives for this balance with moody pieces like “Azul” (whose title appropriately translates to “blue”), “Into The Dark” and “Olodum, ” which frames an eloquent guitar melody with darker percussion edges and haunting synth textures. Yet Cook doesn’t fully abandon his instinct for the danceable, setting spirits on high with a briskly strolling title track and a sweeping Middle Eastern romp which brings Cook “Closer to Madness.” Likewise, “Brio and “Gipsy” combine his love for pure pop hooks with artful fingerstylings worthy of his Berklee education. — Jonathan Widran, All Music Guide

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