Imagination, versatility and technical excellence are all adjectives that describe Canadian bassist,
Roberto Occhipinti. Long recognized for his chameleon-like ability to dig in to almost any musical form, it is in his love and enthusiasm for Latin jazz that he burns brightest.
He toured and recorded with Blue Note recording artist, Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana, notably appearing on her last three recordings, including the Grammy nominated Alma de Santiago and the Juno award winning Ritmo + Soul. Roberto’s association with piano virtuoso Hilario Duran has resulted four well-received recording projects, in addition to New Danzon. His 2001 recording, Trinacria, marked his debut as a leader, and also received rave reviews. The project featured Hilario Duran, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Phil Dwyer, Hugh Marsh, Dafnis Prieto and Yosvany Terry.
Another of Occhipinti’s projects include his participation with the Juno award winning jazz ensemble, “NOJO”, with whom he has toured Canada along with saxophone legend, Sam Rivers. “NOJO” has recently released a project with Mr. Rivers, available on True North Records. Roberto Occhipinti’s long list of recording credits include work with Nelly Furtado, Rush, Al DiMeola, Holly Cole, Phil Ramone, Teo Macero, Gino Vanelli and Oscar Peterson. He has also performed in concert (and recorded) with Tito Puente, Dave Valentin, Memo Acevedo, Al Grey, Pat LaBarbera, Cleo Lane & John Dankworth, Mulgrew Miller and Chucho Valdes. In addition to his jazz work, Roberto Occhipinti is a also an accomplished classical bassist. He has been a member of The Winnipeg Symphony, The Hamilton Philharmonic, The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Arraymusic, New Music Concerts and the Esprit Orchestra. Recent appearances include performances with Toronto classical ensembles “The St. Lawrence Quartet”, “The Gryphon Trio” and “Via Salzburg”.
In 2004, Roberto released The Cusp, his second CD as a leader. Performers include Hilario Duran, Dafnis Prieto, Phil Dwyer and members of The Boss Brass. The Cusp was nominated for Record of the Year at the National Jazz Awards (Canada).
With Yemaya (2005), Occhipinti has given full flight to his musical vision, employing horns, a string quartet and a full string symphony orchestra on classical arrangements of cuban, Brazilian and original jazz pieces.
Other career highlights include a notable concert performance with his ensemble as part of CBC’s prestigious “On Stage” series at the Glenn Gould Recital Hall, and in Montreal as part of Radio Canada’s long-standing, award-winning jazz presentation, “Silence en Jazz”.
A BEND IN THE RIVER continues bassist/composer/bandleader Roberto Occhipinti’s explorations into musical synthesis. At first glance, the components seem disparate—chamber music, complicated rhythms, daring improvisation—but all makes sense given Occhipinti’s singular background. Raised in the City of Toronto, Ontario, Roberto was exposed to all types of music, from the Beatles and Soul music to Classical Music and Jazz . Occhipinti’s sheer musical talent took him through to orchestral work, and then his adventurous nature returned him to jazz.
A BEND IN THE RIVER follows upon the success of Occhipinti’s recordings “Trinacria”, “The Cusp,” and “Yemaya,” which garnered a Juno nomination in 2005. The specific genesis for the project was a series of concerts presented by Music Toronto, “Crossings,” which involved musicians from various disciplines. Occhipinti was the featured artist in 2008, and from there springs much of this material.
His previous two discs had featured a larger group, but for A BEND IN THE RIVER Occhipinti decided to concentrate first on the basic quartet. He drew the musicians from the talented young pool of Cubanos who have made Toronto and New York their new home: LUIS DENIZ (alto sax), DAVID VIRELLES (piano) and DAFNIS PRIETO (drums.) Strings, winds and trumpet were added later—the full orchestra featured on three of the tracks was recorded in Moscow.
The first track, “Umbria,” opens with the string quartet playing in a style reminiscent of Bela Bartok. Then the quartet joins in, melodic and irresistibly rhythmic. “A Bend in the River” is driven by drummer Tony Allen (Fela Kuti) with whom Occhipinti met through Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz and Mali Music project. “That’s That,” harmonically inspired by Wayne Shorter, is titled after a phrase Occhipinti uses, by his own admission, “all too much,” which he encountered in the movie “Goodfellas.” “Naima,” is, of course, the beautiful love ballad composed by John Coltrane for his wife. Occhipinti arranged it for solo bass and then added the string arrangement. “Chamacos” is Cuban slang for “kids,” or something along those lines, and Occhipinti uses it to describe his collaborators. The piece is based on a rhythmic figure that David Virelles played at a jam session. “Garotte” is a blues-flavored tune featuring just the quartet. “Marta” is written by saxophonist Luis Deniz and dedicated to his mother; it is the one strongly Latin-flavored song on the disc. While the music is not specific to any one country, rhythmically, it makes references to Africa, Brazil and the Middle East.
It is jazz as the original World Music.