Multiple-JUNO and National Jazz Award nominee NOJO (Neufeld – Occhipinti – Jazz – Orchestra) continues to create a stir with its bold and original music. Formed in 1994, composer pianist Paul Neufeld and guitarist Michael Occhipinti have come together once again to release their sixth album NOJO Explores The Dark Side of the Moon, available digitally around the world June 15, 2010 via iTunes, Napster, eMusic, Amazon and other digital retailers.
NOJO’s many influences include African music, early blues, contemporary classical music, funk and r&b, and a century of jazz, yet the group’s recordings reveal a distinct and cohesive sound. NOJO Explores The Dark Side of the Moon is an 8 track album that mirrors the original Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon, one of the best selling albums of all time.
2009 marked the band's 15th anniversary, and co-leaders Paul Neufeld and Michael Occhipinti decided to do something different. With all the interest in the world of classic rock, and numerous cover bands, broadway musicals and rock productions trying to exactly replicate famous recordings, Neufeld and Occhipinti decided that they wanted to do something closer to the more rebellious spirit of the artists who created what is now called "classic" rock, and initiated a series of concerts where NOJO would perform a famous rock album, using original arrangements that both stayed true to the original material in spirit and yet took the music in new, often exploratory directions.
NOJO Explores The Dark Side of the Moon was recorded live at Toronto's Lula Lounge. In tackling the music, Neufeld and Occhipinti tried to take it in a lot of different directions, at times staying true to the lush, heavily arranged moments on Pink Floyd's original, at times playing off the blues elements in David Gilmour's guitar solos, and at times taking it into everything from free jazz to reggae (sides of the moon that Pink Floyd never went to).
Since in inception in 1994, NOJO has performed at numerous jazz festivals and venues, including the prestigious Umbria Jazz Winter Festival in Orvieto, Italy, the Stranger Than Paranoia festival in Holland, Distillery Jazz Festival and the Festival de Jazz de Montreal, often in the company of clarinetist Don Byron, who has been a frequent guest soloist since 1997. NOJO won the JUNO Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for its 1995 self-titled debut CD, and its three subsequent recordings, FireWater (1996), You Are Here (1998) and Highwire (2002) have all been JUNO nominees. NOJO also won the 2002 National Jazz Award for Best Big Band, and the group has been nominated for the same award in 2003, 2004 and 2007.
Over its history NOJO has always challenged itself to undertake new creative projects. Whether continuing to perform with the top international names in jazz such as Sam Rivers, or performing an improvised funk set with rapper Phatt Al, NOJO has distinguished itself from other jazz groups through the band’s willingness to explore new ideas.
The Los Angeles Times has called NOJO “one of the most imaginative large ensembles on the current jazz scene” and it is no surprise that the band’s music has intrigued guest soloists such as saxophone great Joe Lovano, trombonist Ray Anderson, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, and most notably clarinetist Don Byron and saxophone giant Sam Rivers. Don Byron appears on NOJO’s JUNO nominated Cds You Are Here (1998) and Highwire (2002). Sam Rivers is also featured on City of Neighbourhoods with compositions written to showcase his work on flute, and soprano and tenor saxophones.