Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

{ian cooke}
photos courtesy of Brain Carney Photography

The cello may just be the most melancholy of all instruments. And while Ian Cooke has posited this sentiment, he is not the most melancholy of men. Not normally. Not outside what he has done.

And what Ian Cooke has done is nothing short of performing the bravest of deeds.

The Fall I Fell, Cooke’s stunning 2007 release, is a series of compositions based truly and entirely about a recent unrequited love. Still markedly fresh, the writing, the recording and the playing-out of the album was a great stab at therapy. But this wasn’t his ultimate aim.

Because while the process of writing through recording an album of this order is brave-enough - Cooke took it one step further: He presented his 12 songs to the object of the album – the unrequited love. From what I gather, the gesture was received with reverence and gratitude. But even as Cooke relayed this information, his eyes floated lazily out the window and beyond us as though he saw something drifting by.

A classically trained pianist and cellist, Ian Cooke is a former member of Denver’s Uphollow, with whom he matured as a songwriter and a performer. Then, quicker than Cooke was comfortable with, he was thrust into the spotlight. And now, with the blessing and encouragement of his bandmates, he has walked-out, on his own.

And after releasing an EP in 2006, Cooke rerecorded the six songs and paired them with six new tracks. Relying on everything personal, Cooke drew from his life, and in particular, the conversations, the inside jokes, the sentiments shared and the love unrequited between he and another.

In all The Fall I Fell is nothing short of magical. With Cooke’s classical sylings and melodic sense, the album is intricate and dense. And while its material is intensely personal it is written for adaptation. It is written so that it stands as universal.

And he has succeeded.

Ambitious in its compositions and movements, The Fall I Fell is mesmerizing. Overwhelming in its power, integrity and swelling sound – couple that with the content and there is barely enough grip left to wrap your hands around Cooke’s work. And while the structure, the sound and the style is enough to captivate – get beyond that like a castle’s drawbridge and you’ll find lighted cities of emotion.

Topically Cooke is not the most emotional man. His composure is tall. Always smiling warmly, he doesn’t appear to get riled-up by much.

And while the cello may be the perfect instrument for Cooke’s collage of hypnotic proportions – the way that he plucks and bows it with ferocity and then an alternate kindness – apart from the instrumental depth of emotion, Cooke has laced his entire album with fingers of images. Each reaching into the next.

If The Fall I Fell hadn’t received the critical acclaim that it has, I have a feeling that Cooke would have been happy to simply present his love with the musical equivalent of his journal and the photo album of their days together.

If you haven’t taken a listen to Ian Cooke’s album, do so by going here: www.iancooke.com. In a year where there are multitudes of strong albums being recorded and released here in Denver, this is one that will surely stand the test of time.