Roberto Occhipinti. Bassist, composer, producer, b Toronto, Ont, 25 Mar 1955; Artist's Diploma (Toronto) 1999. Roberto Occhipinti came from a musical family that includes guitarists Michael (his younger brother) and David (a cousin). At the University of Toronto, beginning in 1972, he studied under Thomas Monohan; he was also mentored by David Young and Joel Quarrington. Occhipinti was a member of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (1976-8), Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra (1980-5) and Canadian Opera Company Orchestra (1984-9). In the field of contemporary music, he was principal bassist with the Esprit Orchestra (1986-94) and a member of Arraymusic (1979-2000).
One of a small number of musicians who have had successful careers in both classical music and jazz, in 1997 Occhipinti began working with Cuban expatriate jazz pianist Hilario Durán, recording Killer Tumbao (1997), Habana Nocturna (1999), Havana Remembered (2001), New Danzon (2004) and From The Heart (2006). These recordings brought him into contact with saxophonist Jane Bunnett. He toured with her and appeared on three of her recordings: Ritmo and Soul (2000), Alma de Santiago (2001) and Cuban Odyssey (2003).
He also performed with his brother's band, NOJO; the Toronto-based sextet, Soul Stew; Gorillaz; and Damon Albarn's Mali Music. His jazz quintet toured extensively in 2006.
In addition to performing, Occhipinti has been a producer for artists including Durán, Dafnis Prieto, The Gryphon Trio, Quartetto Gelato and Shurum Burum Jazz Circus, and a music supervisor and orchestra contractor for films and commercials.
Roberto Occhipinti's own recording career began in 2001 with Trinacria, featuring a nonet of Canadian and Cuban musicians performing compositions by Occhipinti, Durán (who performed on piano), Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk. The Cusp (2003) featured a 13-piece ensemble and mixed original compositions with his arrangements of songs by Wayne Shorter, Jimi Hendrix and Giacomo Puccini. Yemaya (2006) was even more ambitious, featuring 22 jazz musicians, a string quartet and the Globalis Symphony Orchestra.
In 2001, as part of Bunnett's Spirits of Havana, Occhipinti shared in a Juno award for best global album. In 2005 he received a Juno as producer of Durán's New Danzon. He won National Jazz Awards for producer of the year in 2005 and 2006, and acoustic group of the year in 2005. In 2006 he received a SOCAN award for a cartoon series, George Shrinks.