The Toronto Star

What's On Story August 24, 2000

Jazz Notes Geoff Chapman
Renaissance jazzman

Jazz fans know David Occhipinti the polished guitarist - now they can listen more intently to Occhipinti the guitarist/composer.

With two well-received CDs under his belt, a self-titled release three years ago and last year's Syzygy , the 33-year-old Toronto-born Occhipinti studied piano early but was moved by The Beatles' music to switch to guitar at age 13.

Since then he's developed a distinctive style, has played every club in this region and earned a living from jazz - not always the case with the genre. Next week, however, as well as holding forth with a trio at the Top Of The Senator, he'll also be celebrating a new day job, teaching guitar once a week at Humber College (where he was a student from '84 to '87).

For the Senator date Tuesday through Sept. 3, he'll have regular companion Jim Vivian on bass and American drummer John Hollenbeck, a first-call musician in New York who heads two ensembles. The sessions will feature some new pieces - as well as Beatles tune ``Julia.''

Says Occhipinti: ``There's a lot of great drummers in Toronto but John, who I met at Banff 11 years ago, is very different. He brings a compositional element and new musical ideas to his work.''

That suits the guitarist, who has concentrated on composing this past year and taking counterpoint classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

``I realized after the two CDs that the more I knew, the less I knew. So I've been studying techniques used by classical figures like Schoenberg and Berg - and while you could say that my mentors have been (guitarists) Jim Hall and Ed Bickert, my favourite musician is J.S. Bach. He did so much with so few notes, it was almost like improvisation.''

The trio, with Canadian drummer Kevin Dempsey replacing Hollenbeck, will make an extensive western tour next month and Occhipinti is musing about a new trio album, or possibly a solo one. ``These things need time to simmer, like soup,'' he notes ``but the ultimate aim is always to develop your own sound.''

Earlier this year he was playing with local musicians in northern Italy, where his parents and artist wife, Mascia, were born, and will be there again next spring with the aid of funding from Ottawa. He lived in Italy for two years in the 1990s, has played there frequently and also performed in Switzerland and Britain. In 1996 he was selected as one of 10 winners in the Guitars On Fire contest held by magazine Jazziz.

read more interviews:
Toronto Star/November 2002
Ottawa Citizen/January 2000
Edmonton Journal/September 1998
back to reviews