HCC Jazz Festival
Bassist Avery Sharpe guest artist for 24th annual Jazz Festival
The annual Holyoke Community College Jazz Festival returns for its 24th year on March 3 with bass player Avery Sharpe joining the Amherst Jazz Orchestra and members of the HCC jazz faculty for a big band concert.
The show will begin at 8 p.m. in HCC's Leslie Phillips Theater in the Fine & Performing Arts building on the main HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave. The concert is free for HCC students, faculty and staff, and $10 for the general public.
In addition to his work as a performer, Sharpe is a prolific composer, as well as a music educator, and founder of the artist-owned record label JKNM Records. Sharpe's most recent album was "400" in 2019. Released on JKNM, the album marked the 400th year since Africans were brought to U.S. shores in 1619.
"We're very excited to welcome Avery Sharpe to HCC this year as guest artist for our annual jazz festival," said festival organizer and HCC music professor Robert Ferrier. "He's not only a great musician, but also a great teacher, and a great human being."
The Amherst Jazz Orchestra, led by trombonist David Sporny, has been a mainstay of the HCC Jazz Festival since the first one in 1998. This year's concert will feature Sharpe performing with Amherst Jazz Orchestra and members of the HCC jazz faculty: Geoff Cunningham (on trumpet), Pete Grimaldi (on trumpet), and Robert Ferrier (on guitar).
Avery Sharpe's first instrument was piano, which he started playing at 8. He took up the accordion and switched to electric bass after his family relocated from Georgia to Springfield. Sharpe studied economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst while playing electric bass in gospel, funk, and rock groups.
With the encouragement from renowned bassist Reggie Workman, Sharpe learned acoustic bass and soon began performing with Archie Shepp and Art Blakey. In 1980, Sharpe won a spot in McCoy Tyner's group and worked with him for the next 20 plus years, playing hundreds of gigs worldwide and appearing on more than 20 recordings with Tyner. Sharpe's credits also include sideman stints and recordings with jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsales, Yusef Lateef, Bobby McFerrin, Pat Metheny, and Billy Taylor. His first recording as a leader was the 1988 album Unspoken Words on Sunnyside Records. In 1994, he started JKNM Records. To date he has more than 12 titles as a leader for JKNM.
His educational activities include numerous clinics and workshops at home and abroad. He has presented at UMass, Williams College, the Berklee School of Music, Bates College, the University of Miami, and colleges in Peru, Brazil, and Australia. In 2022, Sharpe was the Sterling Brown Distinguished Visiting Artist in Residence in Music at Williams, as well as artist associate in jazz bass and jazz coach at Williams. He was also faculty advisor for the Williams Gospel Choir and affiliated faculty for Africana Studies.
His awards include The NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Special Achievement Award, several National Endowment for the Arts Grants, and the New England Foundation for the Arts Achievement in Jazz Award.
PHOTO: Avery Sharpe