Jesse Cook is sometimes criticized in online music forums for looking too much like Michael Bolton, despite possessing sold-my-soul-to-the-devil guitar skills.
Despite Cook's fashion faux pas, Olympic ice skaters twirl to Cook's old-school flamenco mixed with upbeat Latin rhythms; before Sex and the City ended, Cook's music found its way onto the TV show; and a million-plus listeners snatched up at least one of his six CDs, one of which earned Cook a Juno, the Canadian equivalent of our golden Grammy.
I'm happy to report that Cook's hair looks a little less like '80s Bolton, and that his interpretation of Gypsy rumba still rocks. As a fan of classical guitar--I heart Andrés Segovia--I enjoyed listening to Cook on his Web site, www.jessecook.com.
"Tempest"--a classic Cook song performed with 13 other hits on his latest album, Montreal--is poignant and understated; there are no issues here with his virtuosic playing overpowering other elements, an occasional complaint from listeners of earlier albums. "Mario Takes a Walk" features beautiful percussion-inspired guitar with a kick-ass, marching-band-esque drum finale. The organic feel and joy of a live recording suits Cook well. Montreal was recorded at the Le Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in 2004.
What I find impressive about Cook's musicianship is how he collaborates with a diverse array of musicians, from Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Durel to Arabic vocalists Maryem Tollar and Roula Said, and how he infuses and experiments with world music.
Cook plays at the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, May 6. The show starts at 8 p.m. Reserved seating costs $28-$35. Tickets may be purchased from Antigone Books, CD City, Enchanted Earthworks, the Rialto Box Office or online at www.rhythmandroots.org. --M.H.
Audra Cobelis, like many of us, grew up surrounded by unrealistic images of what women should look like. On the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, and on the TV screens of her youth, Cobelis saw what it meant to be "stylish."
But the 22-year-old "proprietress" of the downtown gallery The Space has grown up and away from mainstream aesthetic standards.
"Now that I'm older and more of a woman, I've separated from that," Cobelis says.
But what Cobelis hasn't separated from is art, both her own and discovering new talent. As a result, she's tapped into the energy of local designers who she met at monthly get-togethers at Fourth Avenue's ITL Coffee Shop.
Cobelis brings not only Tucson's homegrown fashion sense to The Space on Saturday, May 6, but also visual art and music in the first "The Art of Style" event.
Doors open at 8 p.m. for a gallery showing of Cobelis' fashion-icon-infused oil and watercolor paintings, in addition to the work of other artists. The fashion show kicks off an hour later at 9 p.m. Bands like TRYST and the Infernal Rockets take the stage at 10 p.m.
Cobelis reminds me that "The Art of Style" is free and open to the public.
"The Space has always been into promoting local art and not charging people for it," she says. "We don't take commission if anything sells. ... I hope that everyone has a really good time and appreciates each other and the art that we make." --M.H.
If filmmaker George A. Romero ever decided to direct a high school musical, I'd put my money on Zombie Prom.
Not familiar with Zombie Prom? Imagine Dawn of the Dead mixed with the feel-good camp of Grease and Little Shop of Horrors. Tucson High School's director of theater, Art Almquist, was initially drawn to the musical's potential weirdness.
"I was doing a search, and the title immediately drew me in," Almquist says. "I just love things that are kind of twisted and take you to unexpected places. I ordered it, and I listened to the music, and it's just outrageous. It manages to make fun of musical conventions while being a great musical."
Zombie Prom is set at Enrico Fermi High during the height of McCarthyism and doo-wop. The namesake of the high school should point you in the direction of a 1950s version of The Simpsons' Springfield--a community on the edge of a nuclear waste dump.
Bad-boy protagonist Jonny goes to the dump after his sticky-sweet love interest Toffee is forced to end the romance. Jonny returns as a radioactive zombie hellbent on winning Toffee back. Of course, a prom is involved.
What's especially cool is that the Tucson High cast and crew, who are making Zombie Prom possible, were recently selected as one of the best high school theater programs in the nation by the American High School Theatre Festival. As a result, Almquist's students have the chance to perform at Edinburgh's renowned Fringe Festival. But to do so, the program first has to raise money.
To support such efforts, consider attending this musical parody of teen-romance plots and B-horror movies. General admission is $8, $7 for seniors and students. --M.H.
A few years ago at Al's Ace Hardware, a chili competition was born. Lore has it that a Texan, a Chicago native and a Detroit man exchanged claims about who made the best pot of chili. Rightly so, egos bristled.
Like many regional culinary conflicts, this fight for flavor would not be settled without a cookoff. So the three braggarts assembled ingredients, cooked up a mess of chili and invited others to taste and decide.
"Last year's winner, Ray Carter, returns to defend his title," says the Texan, aka Alan Bubb, of the Detroit man's win.
What started as an off-the-cuff idea among co-workers has since morphed into a second community fundraiser. This year's cookoff benefits the revitalization of 29th Street Corridor communities.
The Chili Challenge features corporate and individual competitors. Besides Al's Ace Hardware, a handful of other companies and groups from the 29th Street Coalition Weed and Seed will compete for the coveted corporate trophy.
"You just have to see this thing," Bubb says. "It's an old metal pot sitting on a wooden base--nothing fancy about it. We found a pot and bolted it down."
Admission to the Chili Challenge is free. Tickets for chili, cornbread and cold refreshments are 50 cents per sample, or three tickets for $1. Judges evaluate chili on two broad criteria: taste and edibility. For more information or to learn how to compete, call Bubb or Greg Hendricks at 747-8144. --M.H.