Michael Occhipinti & The SicilianProject

Michael Occhipinti & The SicilianProject

 Toronto, Ontario, CAN

Michael Occhipinti's SicilianProject has been dazzling audiences world-wide with its mix of Sicilian work songs, global grooves, great musicianship, and intriguing stories. Michael Occhipinti’s inventive arrangements & compositions featuring musicians drawn from Jazz, World Music, and Chamber music make it a group equally thrilling at festivals, concert halls, and clubs. Their debut received a JUNO nomination (Canada's Grammy) and the new album MUORICA is now out.


"Rarely have I seen performers – and particularly singers – who immersed themselves in the music as much as Italian vocalist Pilar and Canadian-Sicilian vocalist Dominic Mancuso did in this show. In almost every song, their voices, their faces, their hands, and their entire bodies were communicating the intense emotion in the lyrics and music. It was an emphatically “hot” concert”        Alayne McGregor, Ottawajazzscene.ca (Ottawa Chamber Festival review)

"Sicilian tempers run legendarily high, but inhabitants of the Italian island—and their descendants—have a matching appetite for fun.  Even a downpour couldn’t have dampened this sextet’s raucous energy.”

            Alex Varty, Georgia Straight (Vancouver Jazz Festival review)

“Michael Occhipinti’s miraculous sounding guitar, Don Byron’s warm and woody clarinet, and the magnificent voices of the ineffable Dominic Mancuso and the divine Pilar. No pomp; no circumstance; just wonderfully and magically made music.”                 Raul da Gama, JazzdaGama

Michael Occhipinti’s Sicilian Project has been dazzling audiences world-wide with an intriguing mix of rare Old World Sicilian folk material and the New World sounds of electric guitars, chamber music, funk and reggae grooves, and modern jazz. Using music sung by Sicilian fishermen, sulphur miners, and folk musicians as a starting point, the music is like a trip on the Mediterranean that somehow manages to detour to Mali, Jamaica, and Toronto. 

Michael Occhipinti’s work has been called “a masterpiece of cultural fusion” and his album The Sicilian Jazz Project received a 2009 JUNO Award nomination. The recording also resulted in the prestigious Ragusani nel Mondo Award being presented to Michael and his co-producer/bassist brother Roberto Occhipinti in Ragusa, Sicily in 2009. In 2010 Michael Occhipinti received a Chalmers Fellowship to live in Sicily and explore the folk culture further. The fruits of that trip form the basis of the group’s new album Muorica, featuring a large cast of Canada’s best musicians fronted by long-time vocalist Dominic Mancuso, and special guests that include the astonishing Rome-based vocalist Pilar, brilliant American clarinetist Don Byron, and the acclaimed Cecilia String Quartet.

Muorica’s bold songs and arrangements are already generating great praise.  The physical album comes with a stunning 40 page book that documents Michael Occhipinti’s experience in Sicily, with stories for each song, beautiful photographs, and even some travel advice and recipes to make it a unique album package. The group recently journeyed to Sicily to film both a video for the song Amuninni Razzietta, and to film their concert in the beautiful Teatro Garibaldi in the city of Modica.  

Michael Occhipinti and The Sicilian Project toured extensively in summer/fall 2015, and the group has brought its captivating and infectious live show to a range of festivals across Canada, Italy, the USA, and Mexico, including the Festival Cultural de Zacatecas, Mexico, The Rochester International Jazz Festival, Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, and Toronto’s beautiful Koerner Hall. Mixing a unique repertoire, great story-telling and stellar musicianship, the band is not to be missed live. The Sicilian Project is now booking 2016 dates for Canada, Europe, and the United States.

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 Sam Rivers, Bruce Cockburn, Joe Lovano, Jeff Coffin, and long-time colleague Don Byron.


Michael Occhipinti's The Sicilian Jazz Project was released internationally in 2009 and the entire recording can be heard at www.thesicilianjazzproject.com and at http://www.truenorthrecords.com/Albums.php?album_id=432

Set List

Most shows involve either one long set or two sets (although for some club shows the group will do 3 sets). Concerts usually involve two 70 minute sets with an intermission.

The group performs all of the music from the Sicilian Jazz Project CD along with a variety of other pieces (including a surprising fishermen's chant that usually opens the band's shows).

1. Cialomi (a tuna fishing song)
2. The Almond Sorters
3. Jolla
4. Nun it lassu (traditional ballad)
5. The Sulphur Miner

1. Ciuri Ciuri
2. Cantu ri li scugghitura (trad.wheat harvesting song)
3. The Ribbon Dancers
4. Vitti na crozza (a popular song that gets an Afro-pop treatement).