You Are Here

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NOJO stands for the Neufeld/Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra, which is a chance-taking, Toronto-based big band led by pianist Paul Neufeld and guitarist Michael Occhipinti. Released by Auracle in Canada in 1998 and reissued by Koch Jazz in the U.S. in 2000, You Are Here is an excellent CD that underscores the orchestra's risk-taking nature. Neufeld and Occhipinti can hardly be accused of leading one of those faceless, conventional big bands that spends its time sounding like a poor man's version of the Buddy Rich Orchestra-NOJO strives for originality, and the quirky, left-of-center compositions of Neufeld and Occhipinti combine a love of Charles Mingus with influences that range from world music to funk and Mississippi Delta blues. During the course of this CD, one hears NOJO bringing elements of Arabic, Jewish and North African music to its post-bop foundation. On You Are Here, NOJO has a very special guest soloist in clarinetist Don Byron, who is featured prominently and proves to be a major asset. Byron is quite adventurous himself; so it isn't surprising that he fits in so perfectly on this 1998 session, which is enthusiastically recommended to anyone who likes to hear a big band taking chances.

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