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Canadian Heritage

Michael Occhipinti


MICHAEL OCCHIPINTI (bassist guitarist, vocalist, composer) was born on May 12, 1967 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from York University in Toronto. Occhipinti’s eclectic approach to jazz and creative music of all kinds has earned him a broad array of listeners and the respect of critics and musicians alike.

He has released his own solo albums – perhaps most notably his year 2000 release ‘Creation Dream’, an adventurous collection of instrumental interpretations of Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn's songs -- but is likely currently best-known as co-leader of the 16-piece NOJO (Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra), which first surfaced in 1994, the result of a creative collaboration between pianist Paul Neufeld and guitarist Michael Occhipinti.

Featuring some of Canada's best improvising musicians, and the original music of Occhipinti and Neufeld, NOJO draws on a diversity of styles incorporating funk, blues, West African music, and a century of jazz. In June of 1997, NOJO was joined in Toronto for a week of concerts at the Top O' The Senator by celebrated clarinetist Don Byron, a Downbeat and Jazztimes poll winner, who returned to Toronto in the spring of 1998 to record and perform with the band in Buffalo, New York. NOJO has performed at festivals and clubs all over Canada and across the border and frequently recorded with guesting jazz greats including Kenny Wheeler, Joe Lovano, Ray Anderson, and Sam Rivers, was a featured act at Italy’s Umbria Jazz Winter Festival in early 2000, and performed at the ‘Stranger Than Paranoia’ Festival in The Netherlands. NOJO has appeared as the opening band at the Toronto Jazz Festival and played the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Michael Occhipinti wrote and arranged new music for string trio and guitar for a concert with the esteemed Gryphon Trio, and in May 2006, performed with the National Ballet of Canada, playing Gavin Bryars' ‘After The Requiem’.  "The Sicilian Jazz Project," for which Michael takes Sicilian folk music and arranges it for his sextet, released an album in 2011.

"Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon" is Occhipinti's newest project. Initially formed for The Markham Jazz Festival's tribute marking the 30th anniversary of Lennon's passing, the ensemble features the stellar vocals of Elizabeth Shepherd, Laila Biali, Dominic Mancuso, Yvette Tollar, and Denzal Sinclaire, and Michael's distinct arrangements of songs John Lennon perfomed both with the Beatles and and as a solo artist. The group toured throughout Canada during the summer of 2012.

1996 – Winner of a JUNO Award (to NOJO) for ‘Best Contemporary Jazz Album'.
1997 – JUNO nomination for ‘FireWater’ CD
1999 – JUNO nomination (to NOJO) for ‘You Are Here’ CD (True North)
1999 – Winner of a ‘Jazz Report’ Magazine Award as ‘Big Band of the Year’
2002 – National Jazz Awards Winner as ‘Guitarist of the Year’
2007 – JUNO nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album – “Chasing after Light”
2009 – JUNO nomination – 'Best Contemporary Jazz Album' – “The Almond Sorters” - Sicilian Jazz Project


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Michael OcchipintiMichael OcchipintiPaul Neufeld and Michael Occhipinti