Rare is the bassist who steps forward to lead his own ensemble. Rarer still is the bandleader who successfully bridges the worlds of jazz and classical music. Roberto Occhipinti clearly belongs to that rare breed. On his first album, 2001's Trinacria, Occhipinti explored the range of Latin jazz through works by Thelonious Monk, Cuban piano virtuoso Hilario Durán and his own compositions. His follow up album, 2003's The Cusp, expanded on the concept, adding violin, flutes, reeds and horns while tackling composers as diverse as Wayne Shorter, Jimi Hendrix and Giacomo Puccini. Now, with Yemaya, Occhipinti has given full flight to his musical vision, employing horns, a string quartet and a full string symphony orchestra on classical arrangements of Cuban, Brazilian and original jazz pieces. It’s an inspired synthesis.
The album opens with "Maracatres" by Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos-Neto, in which saxophonist Phil Dwyer's fluttering solo floats over a swelling ocean of horns and strings. The breezy title track has bata drummer Pedro Martinez singing a warm homage to the goddess of sea and nature in the Afro-Cuban religion while Moscow's Globalis Symphony lend rich orchestral accompaniment. Equally striking is the sumptuous string arrangement of