An eight-time JUNO Award (Canada's Grammy) nominee for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, guitarist/composer Michael Occhipinti's inventive approach to creative music of all kinds has earned him a broad array of listeners and the respect of critics and musicians alike. Crossing genres that include jazz, chamber music, funk, world music, and anything involving modern guitar sounds, Michael is both a versatile musician and an imaginative band leader. His Sicilian Jazz Project has been called "a masterpiece of cross-cultural fusion" and has thrilled audiences in Canada, the U.S., Italy, and Mexico. Starting with field recordings of forgotten Sicilian folk music and reinventing the music as a mix of global genres, the project earned Michael a JUNO nomination, the 2009 Ragusani nel Mondo Award (which he and his musician brother Roberto received together in Ragusa, Sicily for their contribution to Sicilian culture), and a Chalmers Award that allowed him to live in Sicily from March - June 2010.
Michael Occhipinti & Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon is Michael Occhipinti's newest project, selected by the staff at Jazz FM as a Top Pick of 2012. Typical of Michael’s willingness to challenge himself, the recording pulls off the tricky task of making some the best known songs in the world sound original and fresh. Shine On features the stellar vocals of Elizabeth Shepherd, Laila Biali, Dominic Mancuso, Yvette Tollar, and Denzal Sinclaire, and Michael's distinct arrangements of songs by John Lennon and the Beatles. The group has toured Canada’s music festivals from St. John’s to Victoria, and the record has received strong radio support in the U.S.A., Britain, and on Canadian radio, including live-to-air performances on CBC’s Q and on Jazz FM. The band turned heads at the APAP conference in New York, and is now booking shows for 2014 and beyond.
In 1994 Michael Occhipinti and pianist Paul Neufeld formed the 16-piece NOJO, The Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra, a group the Los Angeles Times describes as "one of the most original sounding large ensembles on the current jazz scene." The group has released five recordings of original music, alongside their newest recording NOJO Explores The Dark Side of The Moon which features the band performing original arrangements of Pink Floyd’s classic album. All five of NOJO’s original music recordings have been JUNO nominated (including the band’s 1995 debut which won the award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album) and its music has intrigued a number of renowned guest soloists including sax great Joe Lovano, trombonist Ray Anderson, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, and most notably clarinetist Don Byron and the late saxophone giant Sam Rivers, who both recorded and toured with the ensemble. NOJO has performed at such prestigious venues as the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival in Orvieto, Italy, The Jazz Standard in New York, and Montreal’s Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.