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Avery Sharpe

Honesty. Clarity. Dignity. These are words that come to mind when you listen to the music of bassist-composer Avery Sharpe. In an age of ephemeral pop stars and flavor-of-the-month trends, Sharpe is a reminder of the lasting value of steadfast dedication and personal integrity. As the title of one of his tunes asserts, "Always Expect the Best of Yourself."

Sharpe was born in Valdosta, Georgia, on August 23, 1954. His first instrument was the piano. "I started playing when I was eight years old," he recalls. "My mother was a piano player in the Church of God in Christ, and she gave lessons to everybody in the family — I'm the sixth of eight children — but it didn't stick until it got to me." He moved on to accordion and then switched to electric bass in high school.

In 1972, Sharpe enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, where he majored in Economics and minored in music, and continued to play electric bass in gospel, funk, and rock groups. While at UMass, he met the jazz bassist Reggie Workman, who encouraged him to learn the acoustic bass. Sharpe adapted quickly to the big instrument, and within a few years he was performing with such notables as Archie Shepp and Art Blakey. Shepp and Max Roach, his professors at the time, had a major influence on him. Sharpe also performed in orchestra and chamber groups at UMASS, and completed one year of graduate school in Music Performance. In 1980, he auditioned with McCoy Tyner and won a spot in the pianist's group. He has worked with Tyner almost continuously since then, playing hundreds of live gigs and appearing on more than 20 records with him.

Sharpe's credits also include sideman stints with many other jazz greats, from Dizzy Gillespie to Pat Metheny, as well as leading his own groups. His first recording as a leader was the 1988 album Unspoken Words on Sunnyside Records, which was praised by critic Jim Roberts as "a diverse, challenging record that rewards repeated listening." In 1994, he recorded Extended Family, the first CD of a trilogy that includes Extended Family II: Thoughts of My Ancestors (1995) and Extended Family III: Family Values (2001). All three were released on Sharpe's own label, JKNM Records.

All of Sharpe' s recordings feature his distinctive original compositions, which draw from the full range of his musical background. "The most important thing is depth," he says. "You have to seek out what was happening before and try to understand it. In my music, I do things that are a little older as well as things that are contemporary. If I try to do just one type of music, that limits me. But the more bases I cover — the more experience I have in my life — the further I can go." He is equally adept at songs and longer compositional forms. In 1989, he wrote and conducted the soundtrack for the movie An Unremarkable Life; a decade later, his six-movement piece America's Promise debuted in a concert-hall performance that featured Sharpe's quintet and a gospel choir backed by the Springfield (Mass.) Symphony Orchestra. In the 1990's Sharpe was commisssioned by the Classical group Fideleo to write 3 extended works for them.

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“Even in these times of extraordinary bass players, Sharpe stands out.”

--Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

“The key to the thrusting power of Mr. Tyner’s current trio is the bassist, Mr. Sharpe... Alternating between acoustic and electric bass, [he] maintains such a commanding presence on both that he is a center around which everything else rolls.”

--John S. Wilson, the New York Times

“Heavy gospel influences are often evident in Sharpe’s original work. The way his solos slowly enlarge, like the sermons of a pulpit-thumping preacher, reflect the spirits of his childhood home.”

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Primary Instrument

Bass

Clinic/Workshop Information

Jazz Ensemble
The artist composes or arranges music especially for a jazz ensemble. The ensemble can be of any size, from a trio to a traditional big band. The ensembles are usually high school or college ensembles but are not limited to them. The artist rehearses and performs with the ensemble. The performance is conducted by either the artist or the ensemble’s own conductor. Children’s Jazz Ed./Demonstration
The history of Jazz is demonstrated through familiar children’s songs and cartoon themes. The workshop is a participatory activity utilizing African children’s songs and stories to show the roots of jazz

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Heshima Moja
bass, electric

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Concert Schedule

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Live At Fabrik

Jazzline Classics
2022

buy

Tiyo's Songs Of Life

Tapestry Records
2022

buy

Powerless

Blue Canoe Records
2021

buy

400: An African...

JKNM Records
2019

buy

Running Man

JKNM Records
2011

buy

Live

JKNM Records
2010

buy

Toe Tappin' Tasty

From: Tiyo's Songs Of Life
By Avery Sharpe

Drive Time

From: Powerless
By Avery Sharpe

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