June 2005

June 24, 2005Star StageToronto
Report by David Fujino with Photos by Roger Humbert

Paul Neufeld

Toronto's own N.O.J.O., the Toronto-based jazz orchestra, opened this year's TD Canada Trust Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival. (It was quietly gratifying to see that an 'avant-garde' group was actually chosen to do the honours.)

When N.O.J.O.'s co-leader and guitarist Michael Occhipinti announced their original composition, "City of Neighbourhoods", this nod to Toronto's multiculturalism didn't go unnoticed by Mayor David Miller, who was then doubly happy to declare the festival as officially, Open.

The idea of a mosaic of different neighbourhoods is reflected in N.O.JO.'s original compositions which are an absorbing blend of different musical styles, with the brass proud trumpets and trombones and the richly timbred woodwinds convening and separating and working off the rhythmic insistence of Neufeld's sparse piano and the ever strong and ever insistent bass lines.

We notice that N.O.J.O. is versatile and agile. They can hit with a hard rock beat, or their soloists can work it on out — and take it out even further — against a romping and syncopated 'shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits' riff.

Their spacious tunes play beautifully with dissonance, and traces of the music of Thelonious Monk, West Africa, Henry Threadgill, Gil Evans and Kenny Wheeler positively blossom and become multi-hued in the N.O.J.O. environment.

Michael Occhipinti
N.O.J.O. (Neufeld Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra) is built around the piano of Paul Neufeld and the electric guitar of Michael Occhipinti who also conducts. The orchestra is further blessed with fluent soloists like the established Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, veteran alto player Ernie Tollar, and energetic tenor saxophonist Patricia Wheeler.

N.O.J.O.'s the real deal: it's incredibly creative and open-minded, and they play their own intelligent tunes.

Happy jazz festival!

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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Roger Humbert
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