The man who has emerged as one of Britain's foremost tenor and soprano saxophonists was introduced to the music of John Coltrane at the age of 19 and immediately went out and bought his own saxophone. Three weeks later, he was playing with the Bristol based quartet Sphere, which gathered an impressive reputation through the late 70s, recording several albums, winning the occasional award and playing an astonishing number of live dates throughout Britain and Europe. These years established Sheppard as a saxophonist to watch, but instead of the obvious move to London he based himself in Paris, working with French bands Lumière and Urban Sax.
Returning to the UK in the mid-80s, Sheppard signed to Island's Antilles label and released his self-titled debut album in 1987. Star trumpeter Randy Brecker featured on several tracks, and the record was produced by the great American bassist Steve Swallow - the beginning of a musical relationship that continues to this day. The album was an immediate critical and popular success and was boosted by Andy winning the Best Newcomer at the British Jazz Awards, shortly followed by Best Instrumentalist Award in 1988, Best Album and Best Instrumentalist in 1989 and the Big Band Award in 1990.
The music on the first album was built around the nucleus of his acoustic quartet, augmented by a distinctive use of percussion and exploration into Latin and African grooves. The follow up album Introductions In The Dark featured a sophisticated mix of acoustic and electric sounds - just one week after release the album entered the British pop chart. A growing reputation was reflected by documentaries on both BBCTV and HTV and Andy was invited to present his choice of jazz archive footage to celebrate the 25th anniversary of BBC2.