Friday, October 19, 2007
Fresh new jazz sound finds clean chords in bop guitar
Roger Levesque

At its best, jazz often involves trying something new and trying to move ahead.

Toronto guitarist David Occhipinti tends to approach his instrument with an ear to the clean, clipped-sounding chords typical of bop guitar greats such as Wes Montgomery and his mentor Jim Hall. But the tunes he fashions are far beyond the rather predictable song structures of bop; they're something fresher.

"When I got into jazz, the first player who really struck me was Pat Metheny because he was using a clean sound to do more contemporary music," Occhipinti says. "It sounded so fresh to me and I realized I wanted to create a voice to do that. I use a bit of distortion too but more as a texture than a soloing, linear thing."

Hear for yourself Saturday when Occhipinti pays another visit to the Yardbird Suite. It's part of a cross-country tour marking the release of his new independently produced CD Forty Revolutions, his fourth album as a leader. The title refers to his 40th and most recent birthday, and it's the work of a mature artist with compelling, longer tunes, full of atmosphere and gradually evolving melodies.

"I tend to daydream a lot," he admits, "but I seem to turn those ambitions into reality."

While the album puts the guitarist in all-star company -- saxophonist Mike Murley, bassist Andrew Downing, and veteran drummer Terry Clarke -- his touring quartet substitutes trumpeter Kevin Turcotte for Murley. Halfway through the tour, Occhipinti says that combination is working out just great. Both Murley and Turcotte are top-ranking players, they all know each other and they bring a similar sensibility to the music despite playing different horns.

This helps since the bandleader admits he tends to write for specific musicians. Either way, he feels composing and improvising are closely related.

"Composing is a lot more work than just being a player. There's a lot of trial and error, but there's no division between composing and playing for me. They go hand in hand, and I tend to sit at the piano or with a guitar when I write, so I'm usually playing when the ideas come for composing."

Not to be confused with his Toronto-based jazz-playing cousins Michael and Roberto Occhipinti, David Occhipinti started guitar at age 13 and began writing tunes several years later.

Years after his initial training at Toronto's Humber College, he returned there to join the faculty. Two learning experiences he considers key to his creative growth included a stint in the Banff Jazz Workshop under then-director Dave Holland and studies in New York with Jim Hall.

Today, he also works regularly in other projects with the likes of Barry Romberg and Murley. Occhipinti and Murley have two excellent duo albums out, Duologue, Vols. 1 and 2 (the first was nominated for a Juno).

David Occhipinti's Quartet hits the Yardbird at 9 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $14 for members, $18 for guests.

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

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