Saxophone player, composer, pianist, singer, politically committed poet, playwright, Archie Shepp is a legend. Archie Shepp’s connection with Goddard began in 1955 when he enrolled as a pre-law major on a full scholarship. Soon after, Archie began to write plays and became a theater major. He graduated from Goddard with a Bachelor of Arts in 1959.
In 1965 he released his first album. Since then, he has released more than 60 albums and played on stages all over the world. Archie’s importance in the jazz canon is indisputable. He was a leader in the 1960s black jazz avant-garde, or free jazz, movement, and has played with the likes of John Coltrane and other jazz greats.
His music speaks to a generation that is not content with the status quo, in terms of music and social equality, and he continuously pushes the boundaries of jazz through experimentation and innovation.
Archie Shepp was also an educator for more than 30 years, heading the Black Studies Program at the State University of New York in Buffalo from 1969 to 1971, and teaching at the University of Massachusetts from 1971 to 2001.
Archie Shepp was born in 1937 in Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
He grew up in Philadelphia, studied piano and saxophone and attended high school in Germantown; he went to college, became involved with theatre, met writers and poets, among them, Leroy Jones and wrote: “The Communist,” an allegorical play, later renamed “Junebug,” about the situation of black Americans.
In the late fifties, Archie Shepp also met the most radical musicians of the time: Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jimmy Garrison, Ted Curson, Beaver Harris … his political consciousness found an expression in plays and theatrical productions which barely allowed him to make a living. In the beginning sixties he met Cecil Taylor and did two recordings with him.
Shepp started his own independent label, Archieball, in order to maintain full artistic freedom, to support independent jazz creation and, most importantly, to promote young jazz talents.