Versatile musician and imaginative band leader Michael Occhipinti returns to the Shambhala Music & Performance Hall next month to take the stage with his all-star line-up Shine On performing the iconic repertoire of John Lennon.
Shine On includes the unique voices of Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program coordinator and instructor Melody Diachun alongside Elizabeth Shepherd on voice and keys. Paired with the instrumental talents of Tony Ferraro on drums, Scott Kemp on bass and Occhipinti on guitar and vocals, together the group boasts over 20 Juno Award nominations.
Michael Occhipinti returns to Nelson on August 3 with his band Shine On which takes classic John Lennon songs and reinvents them for an original and fresh repertoire of engaging music.
Occhipinti produced Shine On in 2010 for a concert to mark the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s passing. It has since been recorded into the album The Universe of John Lennon and audiences continue to enjoy its performance.
“Audiences really love it. They like the fact that the songs are really familiar, they’ve heard them a million times, and we’ve presented them in a way they hadn’t heard before. We made these old favourites new again for them,” he says.
Occhipinti’s music crosses genres that include jazz, chamber music, funk, world music and anything involving modern guitar sounds. Last summer, he appeared at the Shambhala Music & Performance Hall before a sold-out audience for his show of The Sicilian Jazz Project, a mix of rare old-world Sicilian folk material with electric guitar, chamber music, modern jazz, global rhythms, and modern grooves.
Occhipinti is drawn to putting his own spin on popular music, having received Juno nominations for his albums Creation Dream - The Songs of Bruce Cockburn, The Sicilian Jazz Project, and he’s also arranged Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for his five-time Juno nominated big band NOJO (Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra).
Michael Occhipinti was in Nelson last summer for the sold-out show of The Sicilian Jazz Project. He looks forward to playing the Shambhala Music & Performance Hall on August 3.
Reinventing music is classic play among jazz musicians and the process is one that brings enjoyment to audiences and artists alike, says Occhipinti.
“When Miles Davis was playing something like 'Bye Bye Blackbird' or John Coltrane did 'My Favourite Things' from The Sound of Music, these were songs that everybody knew the words to,” he says. “I really enjoyed the process of looking at an artist and making these songs, so identified with someone else, my own. I enjoyed the challenge of that.”
Tackling John Lennon’s songs and the music of The Beatles was even more of a challenge because so many artists have already covered their tunes. While Occhipinti reimagines the music, he also stays true to the spirit of the song.
“If The Beatles were trying to be experimental when they did a certain song, we try and be experimental too,” he says. “Or with ‘Across the Universe,’ I had researched enough to know that it was John Lennon’s favourite song he’d written but he was disappointed in how it was recorded... It lost some of its beauty. When we recorded it, I wanted to capture the atmosphere of it and present it as a beautiful song.”
Occhipinti expresses an honest admiration for Lennon’s music from the inventive takes on “I Am the Walrus” and “Working Class Hero” featuring Elizabeth Shepherd’s vocals, to a surprising version of “I’m Only Sleeping.” The Universe of John Lennon traces an arc from Lennon’s best work from Beatles’s albums and his solo work.
The Ontario native looks forward to returning to the “beautiful” and “intimate” Shambhala Music & Performance Hall and reuniting with Diachun on August 3. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the concert starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available at the door and Otter Books.