Review in Cabaret Scenes
by Peter Leavy:
September 26, 2008
The Robert John Cook Blues Ensemble is properly named. Cook himself is the lead vocalist,
but in true jazz ensemble fashion, he uses his energetic singing as a complement to his six
grooving instrumentalists rather than to monopolize the spotlight himself. If there's any
doubt about his intent, he's listed in the performers' credits in fourth place,
alphabetically, like everyone else.
In true jazz ensemble fashion, he uses his energetic singing as a complement to his six
The group's performance at Don't Tell Mama is exciting visually as well as melodically. The
musicians, Cook, and his two backup singers, accentuate the beat with their bodies as well as
their instruments. The group's arrangements of the song list that included numbers by Jimi
Hendix, Bruce Springsteen and a couple by Cook himself, was infectious. So much so that one
audience member couldn't resist jumping up several times to bounce along with the pulsating
rhythm that even infused band member Bob Dee's harmonica playing.
Admittedly, one has to enjoy jazz and blues to appreciate the Ensemble. Unlike most
performances heard in cabaret, their music is rhythm-driven rather than lyric-driven, and
Cook's vocals are notable for their intensity more than for his interpretation. That said,
for an immersion into the genre, Cook's collection of jazz artists will capture your
attention and hold it.