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Occhipinti's first album

4 May 2000 -- NOJO co-founder Michael Occhipinti is in a Toronto studio recording his new album which will feature original jazz interpretations of the music of one of Canada's most celebrated singer-songwriters, Bruce Cockburn.

Michael Occhipinti is the co-leader and co-writer for the Juno award winning big band NOJO. Michael has performed with a variety of respected jazz artists, including Pat LaBarabara, Darrell Grant, Mike Murley, Don Thompson, Don Byron, Kenny Wheeler, and others. As a member of the Banff Centre For The Arts Jazz Orchestra, Michael performed with Muhal Richard Abrams, Slide Hampton, and Maynard Ferguson.

Michael has extensive experience outside of jazz, performing in funk, R&B, and blues bands, musical theatre, arranging for the improvising New Music ensemble Hemishperes, and performing contemporary music. Michael Occhipinti has a B.F.A. (Hons) degree in music from York University.

The new release, with Occhipinti (guitar), Andrew Downing (bass), Barry Romberg (drums), and guests Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Mike Murley (sax), Hugh Marsh (violin) and Jonathan Goldsmith (piano/organ), is Occhipinti's third album. His previous releases are 1998's Surrealist Blues (below right) and his 1994 debut CD Who Meets Who? (above left).

Occhipinti's second album

Asked about the inspiration for the project, Occhipinti remarks, "Lately, I've been trying to incorporate a lot of the different music that I heard while growing up into my own group's repertoire.

"It's a different experience to play music that you've absorbed from radio or television, as opposed to performing the jazz standard tradition, which most of us haven't grown up with and have had to seek out and learn, although I enjoy that too. I don't have to learn the melody to 'Lovers In A Dangerous Time.' I can sing all the lyrics, simply because I heard it so often when I was 15, just as Miles Davis would have absorbed what was on the radio in his day."

"With this project, I've been choosing music from 25 albums, and have learned so many great tunes I didn't know. I've also been reminded what a wonderful guitarist Bruce is. It's been challenging adapting the music to the personalities of the musicians involved, and making the songs work apart from the lyrics. I'm hoping people will be surprised."

Scheduled for late-summer release, the recording is being produced by Jonathan Goldsmith, and features the Cockburn repertoire Michael has been developing at his regular Friday appearances at Toronto's Rex Jazz Bar.

Report courtesy of True North and Auracle Records.

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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.