ROBERTO OCCHIPINTI’s CD a bend in the river Reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Roberto Occhipinti, a bend in the river, 7 songs, 48 min. Alma Records, 2009. ACD11182

Basic Band: Luiz Deniz, a.sax, David Virelles, piano, Dafnis Prieto, dr., Roberto Occhipinti, bass. Plus Michael Occhipinti, guit., Tony Allen, dr. Chamber Sextet: Marie Berard, v1., Annalee Patipatanakoon,v2., Douglas Perry, vio., Roman Borys, cel., Les Alit, fl., John Johnson, b.clar., Kevin Turcotte, tr. String Orchestra: Globalis Orchestra, Konstantin Krimets, cond.

Roberto Occhipinti skimmed the cream of jazz and chamber players in Canada and poured it into this album he produced. Occhipinti wrote 5 tunes recorded here, John Coltrane wrote 1, and the closing cut is by Luiz Deniz, the band’s alto player. The title track personnel are the band, backed by the Chamber Sextet and the String Orchestra. Maybe 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. Luiz 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.

Roberto Occhipinti’s previous recordings are: Trinacria (2001), The Cusp (2003), and Yemaya (2006).

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