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Roberto Occhipinti: Where Rivers, Bunnett and the Classical Meet

Javier AQ Ortiz By

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Modica Music

Roberto Occhipinti covers the spectrum reflected through the prism of music such as that of Sam Rivers, Jane Bunnett, and European Classicism. In 2000, the bassist released Trinacria (Modica Music) with fellow former “Bunnettero” Hilario Durán on piano. Their cool and swinging treatment of Herbie Hancock’s “One Finger Snap” and “Maiden Voyage,” ably shows the type of interplay that only ensues after years together under Latin jazz’s Matron Saint –as well as their own work together under the pianist own aegis. Thus, Durán and Occhipinti manage to keep themselves interested in each other –as well as interesting to their audiences– in three akin yet diverse Hispanic inflected musical contexts. Their close and active musical collaboration is an asset in Trinacria, however, where it is rather evident during Durán’s piano solo in “Maiden Voyage” –with its rapid fire-yet-laidback-energetic choruses. Furthermore, its melodic release offers both contrast and further solace to an enhancing violin performance from Hugh Marsh and the acoustic bass ample unobtrusiveness.

Their take on Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” with a fantastic performance by altoist Yosvany Terry, morphs into a brief straight ahead passage over its quasi-bomba rhythmic foundation before the date’s leader takes a gamy bass solo. One, however, can be easily keyed up by its swinging pulse and overlook the harmonic richness of the arrangement. Occhipinti’s writing, as illustrated by both “El Negro” and the title cut, is not meant to be outer-edged. His music jams accessibly; although it follows what’s happening among the most advanced performers of Afro Cuban tinged jazz. There’s no nostalgia trip in anyone’s playing as all performers are chronologically and attitudinally young pistoleros that Gatlin their way around the recording. Durán’s own “Waiting For The Float” –perhaps referring to the ocean-crossing unfit balsas used by Cubans to leave Fidel Castro’s clutches– and “Nueva Generación,” are worthy of high praise. These cats are bad mofos as they swing tight, eliciting plenty of feeling from their virtuosi technique, and their music is both fresh and highly attractive.

The Cusp
Modica Music

The Cusp (Modica Music), Occhipinti’s second and latest, was released in 2003 and finds the Toronto based bassist under improved and more shaded orchestrations. Hence, the degree of musicality on this one is higher this time. Unlike his previous recording –which was a jazz rhythm section + percussion and a sole saxophonist– this one features a fuller and rather attractive darker toned wind section. Flutes, various reeds, trombone, trumpet, flugelhorn, French horn, violin, guitar and the rhythm section vary the textures of the novel sounding group. This production is also much jazzier, although there are Latin scorchers such as “Prieto Azul.” The Occhipinti composition is dedicated to Dafnis Prieto who distinguishes himself with his drumming. His cymbal work is precise, energetic and supports the melody in its edgy percussiveness. He also has a solid technique, with just the right touch and sound –as one can appreciate at the coda of “David’s Onda.”

His occasional hyperactivity is expertly balanced in the ensemble playing by Durán’s pianistic fortitude, the percussionist’s own labor and Occhipinti’s spacious acoustic bass playing. Check out Prieto’s agile and woodsy hi-hat triplets though. Kevin Turcotte’s soloing in the opener features lithe Latinized bop lines that prove too scant. Most of the material in this production was written by Occhipinti, whose compositions reveal melodic, emotive and harmonic merit. Perhaps both the title cut and “Ana María” would support such a statement rather well. The work of Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Hendrix and Puccini is also masterfully reinterpreted. Phil Dwyer’s work on reeds, in both recordings, is simply excellent in all regards. He, however, is one among many musical highlights herein.


1. El Negro
2. One Finger Snap
3. Maiden Voyage
4. El Negro Part 2
5. Well You Needn’t
6. Trinacria
7. Waiting For the Float
8. Nueva Generación

Personnel: Roberto Occhipinti: Bass. Hilario Durán: Piano. Phil Dwyer: Saxophone. Horacio “El Negro” Hernández: Drums. Hugh Marsh: Violin. Mario del Monte: Percussion. Long John Oliva: Percussion. Dafnis Prieto: Drums. Yosvany Terry: Saxophone.

The Cusp

1. David’s Onda
2. Ana María
3. Voodoo Chile
4. T. Dot
5. Tosca
6. Prieto Azul
7. Séptima
8. The Cusp
9. Dogon

Personnel: Roberto Occhipinti: Bass/Producer/Arranger. Less Allt: Flute & Alto flute. Phil Dwyer: Soprano and Tenor sax, Piano (9). John Johnson: Bass clarinet & Alto sax. Kevin Turcotte: Trumpet & Flugelhorn. James MacDonald: French horn. Alastair Kay: Trombone. Hilario Durán: Piano. Dafnis Prieto: Drums. Chendy León: Percussion (6,8). Hugh Marsh: Violin (9). Pedro Martínez: Congas (9).

Contact: Modica Music .


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