One of the more intriguing and versatile British musicians, Andy Sheppard has on occasion made a big impression in the United States. He did not start playing music until he was 19 and planning to go to art college; a listen to John Coltrane's recordings changed the direction of his life. Within three weeks Sheppard was playing in public, but quite a few years of scuffling followed as he learned his craft and developed his own sound. In 1986, Sheppard won a jazz competition and was signed to the Antilles label, which served as his breakthrough. His subsequent activities included work with Gil Evans in France (1987), George Russell, and Carla Bley.
While Sheppard co-led a recording and touring band with keyboardist Steve Lodder, he continued his association with Bley. Along with bassist Steve Swallow, they recorded Songs with Legs, which was issued on Watt/ECM in 1995. From 1998 through 2003 the saxophonist released four albums with the U.K.'s Provocateur label, including 2000's Dancing Man & Woman. Sheppard's membership in Bley's Lost Chords quartet (with Swallow and Billy Drummond) resulted in their self-titled offering in 2004. In 2005 he and pianist Rita Marcotulli recorded On the Edge of a Perfect Moment for Incipit, followed in 2007 by The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu.
The latter date prefaced Sheppard's signing to ECM as a solo artist. His first record for the label was 2009's Movements in Colour, an electric/acoustic quintet offering with two guitarists. It was followed three years later by Trio Libero, with the saxophonist in the company of double bassist Michel Benita and drummer Sebastian Rochford. In 2013, Bley, Swallow, and Sheppard released Trios, followed in 2015 by Sheppard's own quartet album Surrounded by Sea, which featured Benita, Rochford, and guitarist Eivind Aarset along with the saxophonist. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi