A Bend in The River
Roberto Occhipinti | a bend in the river

Alma Records ACD11182 • www.almarecords.com

Roberto Occhipinti skimmed the cream of jazz and chamber players in Canada and poured it into this album he produced. Occhipinti wrote five tunes recorded here, John Coltrane wrote one, and the closing cut is by Luis Deniz, the band’s alto player. The title track personnel are the band, backed by the Chamber Sextet and the String Orchestra. Maybe a bend in the river is Occhipinti going further into the jazz-classical crossover ensemble mode he's explored on earlier records.

Bend In The River is originally the title of a novel by V. S, Naipaul that explores success in terms of connecting with one’s roots. Accordingly, there is a lot of Occhipinti’s varied background in this album. There are references to Bartok and Brecker, Charlie Hayden and Cuban Cha Cha, Kenny Garrett, Goodfellas — the movie — and the Gryphon Trio.

“Umbria” opens with a classical canon played by a string quartet for under a minute; then Occhipinti’s bass bounces it into contemporary jazz mode. Luis Deniz’s sax swings out a melody that is echoed by the jazz band, Dafnis Prieto’s drums supplying punctuation that the orchestral strings soften. The ever-excellent pianist David Virelles develops the theme with pearly variations. Deniz talks back, gets intense, recapitulates the melody against a heavily arranged background laced with instrumental crosstalk until the whole thing comes to an end sounding like a slightly Latin sonata.

“A Bend In The River” opens with a gush of strings that sounds synthed and brings to mind the chromatic blush of an African sunset. The notes of Occhipiniti’s bass solo melody bounce like a row of sinewy Masai warriors. He sets a beat that moves to the back when Deniz’s sax bleats out an ostinato theme, the strings talk it back, and Tony Allen does some nice work on drums. The whole arrangement is rich, but the strings and the sax doing a lot of lush repeats begin to sound a bit round.

Coltrane’s “Naima” opens with a reflective bass solo over strings. I never tire of hearing Occhipinti’s solos; the tone and timbre are unique and personal. He speaks. The string orchestra not so much. The sax is romantic and blue like a 40’s movie about night-time in New York. With the added strings, you get that heavy, sweet ‘movie’ feeling a lot on this album.

The rest of the way through it, I enjoyed listening for excellence in the bass, Virelles’ piano, and the rolling bones of drummer Dafnis Prieto.

by Stanley Fefferman January 2009

Basic Band
Luis Deniz – alto sax
David Virelles – piano
Dafnis Prieto – drums
Roberto Occhipinti – bass
Michael Occhipinti – guitar, Tony Allen – drums
Chamber Sextet
Marie Berard – violin 1, Annalee Patipatanakoon – violin 2
Douglas Perry – viola, Roman Borys – cello
Les Alit – flute, John Johnson – bass clararinet, Kevin Turcotte – trumpet
String Orchestra
Globalis Orchestra, Konstantin Krimets, conductor


We welcome your comments and feedback
Stanley Fefferman
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The Live Music Report
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Stanley Fefferman is a writer/photographer on the Toronto music scene and elsewhere. His work appears online at www.showtimemagazine.ca and here at The LMR.

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