Bassist Avery Sharpe was born in Valdosta, Georgia and his first instrument was the piano. “I started playing when I was eight years old,” he recalls. “My mother was a piano player/choir director 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, after his family had relocated to Springfield, MA. He studied economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, and he played electric bass in gospel, funk, and rock groups. With encouragement from renowned bassist Reggie Workman, he learned acoustic bass and soon was performing with Archie Shepp and Art Blakey.
Sharpe is considered a major force of his generation. Avery worked with piano jazz legend McCoy Tyner for 20 plus years, playing hundreds of gigs worldwide and appearing on more than 20 recordings with him. Sharpe’s credits also include sideman stints and recordings with jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Yusef Lateef, Bobby McFerrin, Pat Metheny, Billy Taylor, and many more. In 1994 he started his own artist record label, JKNM Records. To date he has more than 13 titles as a leader for JKNM Records. Sharpe is equally adept at songs and longer compositional forms. He wrote and conducted the soundtrack for the movie An Unremarkable Life. His six-movement piece “America’s Promise” debuted with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra for Gospel Choir, jazz quintet, symphony orchestra, and chorus.
Sharpe received a commission from the classical group Fideleo to write three extended works, and he wrote a musical portrait for the stage for Chamber Music Plus. The stage production Raisin’ Cane has been touring since 2007 and features the actress Jasmine Guy and Sharpe’s Trio. He was commissioned by the Springfield Symphony to write a Concerto for Jazz Trio and Orchestra which premiered featuring the Trio with Kevin Eubanks on acoustic guitar.
Avery Sharpe was the Sterling Brown ‘22 Distinguished Visiting Artist in Residence in Music at Williams College, was an Artist Associate in Jazz Bass, and was Jazz Coach at Williams College. He is a Faculty Advisor for the Williams Gospel Choir, and is Affiliated Faculty for Africana Studies. Avery has served on the panels of the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, Rhode Island Foundation (for Composers), and more. His awards include The NAACP Martin Luther King Jr Special Achievement Award and several National Endowment for the Arts grants.