An ECM recording artist, bandleader and composer, Andy Sheppard is one of Europe’s leading saxophonists and one of a very few British musicians to have made a significant impact on the international jazz scene, playing and writing for settings from solo to big band and chamber orchestra. Sheppard has composed over 350 works that incorporate a strong and characteristic sense of lyricism alongside a very personal use of rhythms from Asia, Africa and South America.
After a period in Paris where he worked with groups including performance art band Urban Sax, he returned to the UK in the mid-80’s recording the album “Andy Sheppard” for Antilles/Island, with Steve Swallow as producer, the beginning of a long musical association that continues to this day. Since then Sheppard has recorded for labels including Blue Note, Verve, Label Bleu and Provocateur.
Often described as a serial collaborator, playing, recording and developing new music with artists as varied as Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, Indian violinist L.Shankar, English folk musician Kathryn Tickell, contemporary classical composer-performers John Harle and Joanna MacGregor, singer songwriter John Martyn and a myriad of leading jazz figures – including three of the seminal composers in contemporary jazz – Carla Bley, the late George Russell and Gil Evans.
Sheppard has been invited to compose for large and small ensembles in the areas of jazz and contemporary classical music. His big band writing includes work with the renowned UMO Orchestra (Finland) and the Bergen Big Band (Norway). He wrote music for a collaboration with the classical saxophonist John Harle, and composed View from the Pyramids, a concerto for saxophone and piano for the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, which premiered at the 1998 Salisbury Festival with Joanna MacGregor as piano soloist. Other works include: Nothing moved but the wind – a work for the Kintamarni Saxophone Quartet; Strange Episode – a piece for tape oboe and percussion for New Noise; the multi-disciplinary Cityscapes – a collaboration with Joanna McGregor et al for the City of London Festival; Glossolalia – a large choral work with saxophone, guitar and percussion commissioned by Bigger Sky and the Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
Sheppard has been commissioned to write music to commemorate two feats of UK engineering. The first was a collaboration with renowned Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell to celebrate the opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. This landmark commission resulted in Music for a New Crossing, written for the Northern Sinfonia, pipes and saxophones, the premiere played live on the spectacular setting of the bridge itself. The second saw Andy commissioned to write a piece to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, using the setting of the Clifton Suspension Bridge (Bristol). For this work, entitled The Living Bridge, Andy composed a fanfare using prepared electronics incorporating the sounds of the bridge and utilizing the talents of 200 local saxophonists which subsequently formed the basis of Saxophone Massive. In 2015, Sheppard was invited to write music for Bristol European Green Capital. The piece entitled “The Divine Paradox (of Human Beings in Paradise)” was designed for massed community choirs, saxophone, percussion/electronics and double bass. It reflects upon the human condition and potentially devastating effects human society is having on planet Earth and was premiered at St Georges (Bristol) in October 2015.
Sheppard’s latest large scale work was commissioned by the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival in collaboration with the Bristol Film Festival in 2017– and saw Sheppard composing his first live score to film, the 1927 masterpiece Metropolis.
Since 2008 Sheppard has released three highly acclaimed albums on ECM: Movements in Colour (2008), Trio Libero (2012) and Surrounded by Sea (2015). As well as other releases on ECM with the long established trio lead by NEA Jazz Master Carla Bley with legendary bass player Steve Swallow: Trios (2013) and Andando el Tiempo (2016).
In 2017, Sheppard took his quartet with Eivind Aarset, Michel Benita and Sebastian Rochford to record once again in the responsive natural acoustics of Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI for ECM. The new album entitled “Romaria” will be released in February 2018.
Sheppard’s recent achievements granted him the prestigious award of European Jazz Musician of the Year 2016 attributed by L’Académie du Jazz.