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Guitarist Dan Cook makes solo debut

For the most part, Daniel Cook hates listening to himself play on studio recordings. “Most of my stuff, I can take it or leave it,” Cook said with a laugh. “I don’t want to say I’m disenchanted, because I’m not.
Daniel Cook.jpg
Daniel Cook has made his solo debut album, Comfy Couches, after playing guitar professionally for more than 30 years. He already has plans for followups.

For the most part, Daniel Cook hates listening to himself play on studio recordings.

“Most of my stuff, I can take it or leave it,” Cook said with a laugh. “I don’t want to say I’m disenchanted, because I’m not. I do this because I love creating music and it’s a beautiful way to express oneself. I realize it’s a cliché, but that’s the bottom line.”

The longtime sideman and collaborator, who has been playing guitar professionally for nearly 30 years, was dreading playbacks of Comfy Couches, his long-awaited solo debut. He was surprised months ago, however, upon hearing his guitar playing and singing on the record, and took it as a positive sign that he didn’t recoil in horror at the results.

“This is one of the few albums I can listen to again and enjoy,” Cook said. “That rarely happens.”

Because he enjoyed creating Comfy Couches so much, the Sidney product is expecting to go back to the well in the coming months. “I’ve probably got three albums ready to go.”

He will showcase songs from his solo salvo (along with bandmates Al Sabourin, Ryan Rock, Brad Hawkes and his brother, Jerry Cook) with a concert at Gorge-ous Coffee on Saturday.

Cook is well known to jazz and blues fans around B.C., having played in a variety of projects over the years.

While living in Vancouver during the early 1990s, he gigged with party band Ngoma and acid jazz act Bangers, among others. Upon moving back to Victoria, where he was raised, in 1997, he struck local gold with Solid 7, a funk collective featuring Kia Kadiri.

His big project of late is Washington & Cook, a jazz-leaning partnership with singer Maureen Washington, with whom Cook has collaborated extensively. They perform together regularly around Victoria.

Cook comes from a very musical family — his brother, Jerry, has played saxophone with everyone from Colin James and Jim Byrnes to Powder Blues. When the Cook clan moved to Sidney from Kent, England, when Daniel was six, music only became more ingrained.

He was taught by both his mother and brother, and wound up becoming a teacher himself, after receiving his jazz studies degree from Capilano College. He gave up teaching in the late 1990s, realizing his heart wasn’t in it. He has been a full-time musician ever since.

“It was great experience, and I’m glad I did it,” Cook said.

“But since I was 12, I have always been in bands. And I realized I would rather be playing. That’s the bottom line. The kids were great, but I knew I would rather be writing and playing.”


What has it been like going from collaborator to frontman for the purpose of this release?

I realize I’m not a fan of self-promotion. It’s just not me. But that’s a tricky one. If you don’t promote yourself, nobody is going to come out.


Why cross that bridge now?

My dream has always been to do a singer-songwriter, solo record. Most of my career has been spent backing other folks, or working in partnership with them, which has been great. But I realized I didn’t want to be 80 and looking back and thinking, “I should have tried that.”


Did the process of writing lyrics for yourself to sing provide a big learning curve?

The last three years, I’ve been on a really stringent writing binge of one song a month. In the last two years, I finally wrote a song separate from myself, that I’ve been proud of. I write a lot of songs that are testimonials, or excerpts from a journal, but now I can write a song about something I can relate to that is not me. I’m to the point where I can write a well-crafted song. But it has taken me 30 years.


It would appear that your family played a big role in your early development.

My mom used to sing to us growing up and we always had music in the house. My parents have really good taste in music. The Beatles were a huge part of our music diet, and Miles Davis. Good jazz, good classical and good pop. We were very fortunate in that way.


When do you remember first picking up the guitar?

I think I was 11 or 12. My mom used to play and then my brother learned how. It was right after that my mom and/or my brother taught me my first couple of songs. I think it was [the Beatles’] Rocky Raccoon.


Where did you go from there?

I put a garage band together with some buddies in Sidney, which was great. We were gigging at an early age, before we had our drivers’ licences.


Does your brother still serve as an inspiration?

He’s been a musical inspiration for me all the way along. He’s older than me, so he took it on when I was at an early age. He played saxophone in a bunch of bands, so I saw that you could make a go of it. Between him and my buddies, I saw that it was a viable way to go.


And now, with children of your own, you have the opportunity to pay it forward by showing them that you can follow your muse and make a living at it.

That has always been a goal of mine. Write new material and try and incorporate it, play it live and see if people dig it. And I’ve had some pretty good success that way. That’s a thing I’m really proud of.

Daniel Cook is celebrating the release of his solo debut, Comfy Couches, with a concert at Gorge-ous Coffee (300 Gorge Rd. W.) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.