Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Now Spinning: Sicilian Jazz Project

I've been spending unusually long periods of time in my car recently and my most frequent musical companion has been the new recording by Toronto guitarist/bandleader Michael Occhipinti.

Occhipinti has had a series of intriguing projects – some shared with keyboardist Paul Neufeld, his co-leader in NOJO – which has found him working alongside musicians like Sam Rivers and Don Byron, and interpreting the music of Bruce Cockburn. This new project takes him – and his brother, the multi-faceted bassist Roberto Occhipinti – back to his Sicilian roots. Featuring players like trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, drummer Barry Romberg and saxophonist Ernie Tollar, the Sicilian Jazz project makes great driving music because it's filled with propulsive, joyous rhythms and passionate solos. It's also filled with terrific vocal performances by Maryem Tollar and Dominic Mancuso – who has a great, raw voice.

I caught a version of this band this summer and they were a hell of a lot of fun, but blasting out of my car speakers on these cool, early-fall nights... hard to keep your foot off the floor.

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