Photo by Steven Sussman
Avery Sharpe is one of the foremost bassists of our time. Perhaps best known for his 20-year stint with the McCoy Tyner Trio, his musical life began at age eight on piano. He switched to accordion and electric bass in high school and was persuaded by the great Reggie Workman, at the University of Massachusetts, to take up acoustic bass. Soon after, he was playing with Archie Shepp and Art Blakey!
Avery has more than 20 recordings with McCoy Tyner and has performed with jazz legends from Dizzy Gillespie to Wynton Marsalis. He has 11 releases on his own label, JKNM Records, his most recent, Sojourner Truth—"Ain’t I A Woman" Project, performed in 2013 at Litchfield Jazz Festival.
Sharpe is a respected composer and arranger who put together the Gospel music we will hear at the Festival. In 1994 he decided he needed a gospel choir to record on his 1995 Extended Family II-“Thoughts of My Ancestors” jazz CD. He enlisted his brother Kevin’s help to assemble the best singers in Western MA. He needed a name for the choir, and, inspired by his parents who taught him and his seven siblings the importance of family, extended family and great values, he decided to name the choir “The Extended Family Choir.” They have now performed together with symphony orchestras, in concert halls, and at jazz clubs across America.
Avery is the Composer/Executive Director with Kevin Sharpe, Director of the Extended Family Choir. The four members of the Extended Family Choir performing at the Festival are Tania Greene, Wanda Sharpe, Heshima Moja, and Kevin Sharpe. The whole Choir can be heard on Sharpe’s recordings, Extended Family II-“Thoughts of My Ancestors” and Extended Family III-“Family Values.”
They will be joined by the Williams College Gospel Choir co-directed by students Gabriel Cervantes and Marcela Osorio. Avery Sharpe has been faculty advisor to the Choir in Williamstown, MA, since the Spring of 2012. The Williams College Gospel Choir, in existence for more than 20 years, is a group of students dedicated to fellowship with one another and to raising their voices in praise. The Choir has performed in churches, done West Coast tours, and has even performed with Grammy Award-winning singer, Rita Coolidge.
Avery Sharpe has been a Teaching Artist at Litchfield Jazz Camp since 2008. This is his fourth appearance at the Litchfield Jazz Festival. The Festival thanks the New England Foundation for the Arts for its support of Avery’s residency and concerts at Litchfield Jazz Camp and for today’s performance.