Born: May 24, 1937 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Archie Shepp is a New York City native and alumnus of Goddard College. Archie started playing jazz in the early 60's and continues to dazzle audiences around the world playing tenor saxophone and piano, accompanied by his soulful voice. Currently residing in Massachusetts, he teaches music history as a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Archie has collaborated with Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane and Yusef Lateef, as well as countless other jazz greats. Mr Shepp received the distinguished New England Foundation for the Arts Achievement in Music Award in 1995. The following is an exerpt from Scott Cashman during the award presentation:
Archie Shepp really began his career as a professional musician when Cecil Taylor gave him an opportunity to join his group in 1960. John Coltrane's appreciation of his artistry led to Shepp's recording contract with Impulse!. Throughout the 1960s he participated in a collective innovation which introduced a new set of possibilities for African American music. Known as either Free Jazz or Avant-Garde Jazz this music spoke to a generation not content with the status quo in terms of music and social equality. As a spokesperson for this new music Shepp proved to be intelligent, educated, forceful and controversial. Through it all, in his music, spoken and written words, and non-musical jobs, he was a forceful advocate for equality and justice.
Beginning in the 1970s Archie Shepp began to experiment with the various forms of his African American musical heritage. Mainstream jazz, traditional spirituals and blues, and original compositions were explored in settings ranging from duos to his Attica Blues Big Band.
Today, in addition to being a master of the tenor saxophone, I believe that through his performances he has become one of the most profound bluesmen on the scene. I don't have to wait for his old age to proclaim my belief that he is one of our national treasures.