A Bend In the River

Roberto Occhipinti – 2008 Alma Records
Produced and arranged by Roberto Occhipinti for Modica Music Productions.
Mixed and recorded by John “Beetle” Bailey at the Drive Shed, Toronto. String Quartet recorded at Glenn Gould Studios by Chris Jackson. Gobalis Orchestra recorded at Moscow Radio Studios.

A BEND IN THE RIVER is the new recording by Toronto bassist/Composer Roberto Occhipinti. Long noted for his involvement in Latin Jazz notably as bassist with the Hilario Duran trio and Jane Bunnett’s Spirits of Havana and as producer of David Buchbinder’s Odessa/Havana project A BEND IN THE RIVER marks a change of direction for Roberto Occhipinti. Building upon the success of his 2005 Juno Nominated disc “Yemaya” and the critically acclaimed discs “The Cusp” and “Trinacria” A BEND IN THE RIVER features the talents of pianist David Virelles, Alto Saxophonist Luis Deniz and drummer Dafnis Prieto in a featured quartet setting augmented by Strings and Winds. While these musicians may be Cuban born, the project is definitely a Contemporary Jazz record performed by musicians living in Toronto and New York

“The Genesis of this project came from a collaborative series by Music Toronto called Crossings. A successful series of concerts going in to its 7th year, it involves musicians from various disciplines, Classical, Jazz and World music and is curated by the Gryphon Trio’s Roman Borys with commissions by a featured artist each season. I have been involved with it since its inception and was honoured to be the featured artist in the 2008 concert. I took the opportunity to revisit some older music and write some new music for the occasion and this is how I ended up with material for this project.

My last 2 discs involved a larger ensemble and I thought that with this project I would go back to a straight ahead quartet setting with some of my favourite young musicians.

We went in to the studio to record a couple more pieces and ended up doing 7 tunes in one day so now I had an album’s worth of material. An opportunity came up to have some orchestral strings added in Moscow where I had previously done some work so I adapted the material I had and added a 40 piece string section on some of the ballads. I still wanted to keep things simple but projects always get complicated and so I added the string quartet, winds and trumpet on the remaining tunes.

I like the concept of rivers, be they in geographic sense or allegorical. All the great music I like seems to be connected to that, the Mississippi of course as the cradle of jazz, but the Amazon, Hudson, St.Lawrence, the Danube, the Niger and even the modest Don River of my hometown. The title comes from a book by V.S. Naipaul that immediately gave me a sense of place in his writing. The music I wrote is not specific to anywhere, but rhythmically makes references to Africa, Brazil and the Middle East. I like to refer to jazz as the original World Music. Its musical DNA has always incorporated music from all parts of the world and it’s an open system that can operate on multiple musical levels.” – Roberto Occhipinti

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UMBRIA

One of my favourite recordings was Spiral Dance by Keith Jarrett. A straight 8’ths kind of tune, I tried to capture the spirit of that Jarrett’s composition, rhythmically and melodically but with the string quartet as an integral part. The opening is a little canon inspired by Bartok. This was from a commission by Music Toronto and is dedicated to the great saxophonist Michael Brecker.
Listen to Umbria

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A BEND IN THE RIVER

I had already recorded this tune a year earlier when I had the opportunity to record a track with one of my favourite drummers of all times, Tony Allen (Fela Kuti) who was on tour with Damon Albarn, whom I toured with in his Gorillaz and Mali Music project. I revived the piece from one I wrote for the percussion group NEXUS in the 80’s for the Crossings series and added strings to it. It is also dedicated the memory of percussionist John Wyre.

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THAT’S THAT

Another piece commissioned but not performed before, I brought it to the studio, we played through it, worked out some things and recorded it. It has a Wayne Shorter harmonic sense to it and I added the string quartet, winds and trumpet to enhance that vibe timbrally. It’s a phrase I use all too much inspired by the movie “Goodfellas.”

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NAIMA

Another Keith Jarrett disc I like is Arbor Zena with Charlie Haden and Jan Garbarek with a string orchestra. I had arranged for solo bass the great ballad Naima written by John Coltrane and then added a string arrangement.

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CHAMACOS

This is a Cuban word meaning “The kids or the young cats” and one I like to use with my young friends David and Luis. They are very inspiring to a “Viejon” like me and their energy keeps me feeling young. The piece is based on a rhythmic figure David played at a jam session we did and I went home and wrote a tune around it. That’s that.

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GAROTTE

This tune is a bluesy groove that features just the quartet. It’s a Kenny Garrett inspired piece, a nice contemporary jazz swing feel.

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MARTA

This is a piece that Luis Deniz wrote dedicated to his mother. It starts off with a rubato intro and goes in to a modern Cuban sort of Cha Cha, the only latinish tune on the disc.

Great solos by Luis and David and an explosive finale by one of the great drummers on the planet, Dafnis Prieto. Dafnis and I have worked together on a number of projects over the years, my own records of course and I have acted as producer on his last 2 discs. He is a young man with a deep musical soul, a virtuosic drummer and a profound composer. I’m honoured to have him as a close friend and musical collaborator.

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