Michael Occhipinti’s JUNO-nominated Sicilian Jazz Project has been dazzling audiences world-wide with its intriguing mix of Sicilian folk material and the best elements of jazz, world music, funk, blues and reggae. The project is being hailed by critics as, “a masterpiece of cultural fusion.” The band will be joined by special guest artist, Italian singer-songwriter, Pilar.
In 1954 ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax toured Sicily, recording traditional folk music performed by sulphur miners, tuna fishermen, and assorted peasants and folk entertainers. Lomax’s field recordings capture the sounds of Sicily as it was in early 1950’s when Michael’s parents immigrated to Canada, and are the inspiration behind The Sicilian Jazz Project, along with traditional dances and ballads gleaned from Michael and Roberto’s many cousins in Sicily. As the band’s composer/arranger, Michael Occhipinti has reinvented the music in imaginative ways that nevertheless capture the original emotions behind the songs. The result is a passionate instrumental and vocal repertoire that makes reference to many genres and has resonated with listeners and audiences worldwide.
The talented individuals who make up The Sicilian Jazz Project have experience in jazz, classical, Arabic, Cuban, Brazilian, and popular music. In inventing new ways of experiencing Sicilian folk music, Michael uses the eclecticism of the ensemble and the diversity of Toronto as a great asset. Performing live with great energy and a passion for story telling, The Sicilian Jazz Project has captivated audiences at festivals across Canada, in the U.S., Mexico, and in Sicily, and each concert ends with the crowd clapping and singing along with the band’s infectious music.
An eight-time JUNO Award nominee for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, Michael Occhipinti is a modern guitarist with a broad sonic palette, and a composer/bandleader interested in creative music of all kinds. Michael is one of few guitarists leading a 16-piece jazz orchestra (NOJO), and his other groups include Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon, instrumental funk group The Triodes, and Creation Dream: The Songs of Bruce Cockburn. Michael has performed with such notable musicians as SamRivers, Bruce Cockburn, Joe Lovano, Jeff Coffin, and long-time colleague Don Byron.
Pilar (Ilaria Patassini) is an Italian singer, lyricist, and actress, born and currently living in Rome. She is a versatile artist who blends Italian singer-songwriter tradition with jazz, folk, pop, and theatrical elements, and she performs in French, Spanish, English, and Portuguese.She holds Conservatory degrees both in singing and chamber music, and her artistic and musical influences run from Mozart to Homer, Nina Simone, Caravaggio, Paolo Conte, Giacomo Puccini, Edith Piaf, Demien Rice, and southern Italian folk music. To date, Pilar has released four albums and works with RSI, Italian Swiss Radio, and as an author and a speaker.