Andy Sheppard’s first leader date for ECM was the 2008 recording Movements In Colour (where Eivind Aarset was one of the featured guitarists). In addition to the aforementioned Trio Libero album Sheppard can also be heard with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow on Trios (ECM 2287, recorded 2012), and on ten of Carla Bley’s albums on the ECM distributed WATT label, beginning with Fleur Carnivore in 1988. Sheppard has previously recorded as a leader for Island/Antilles, Blue Note, Verve, Label Bleu and Provocateur, written music for ensembles of every size including his Saxophone Massive project with up to 200 players, and been featured as soloist with great jazz composers and arrangers including George Russell and Gil Evans.
Andy Sheppard and Michel Benita have been crossing paths since the 1980s. In 2008 Sheppard, Benita and Sebastian Rochford came together in a project at the Coutances Jazz Festival in northern France. It was here that Sheppard first glimpsed the potential of this particular musical combination.
Seb Rochford, whose interest in jazz was first sparked by witnessing an Andy Sheppard concert in Aberdeen, has meanwhile made his own distinctive contributions to it, with his bands including Polar Bear. Rochford’s resumé has embraced work with everyone from Babyshambles to Herbie Hancock, from Brian Eno to Patti Smith. He has said in interviews that the recording of Trio Libero opened up his perceptions about choosing when not to play: this awareness of the musical and dynamic power of restraint also belongs to Surrounded by Sea.
Each quartet member is also a bandleader in his own right, and Michel Benita, French bassist born in Algiers, will shortly be recording with his Ethics quintet (with Eivind Aarset, Mathieu Michel, and Philippe Garcia, and Mieko Miyazaki on koto) for ECM. Benita has played with numerous jazz musicians including Dewey Redman, Archie Shepp, Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Lovano, Steve Kuhn, Michel Portal and many more.
Eivind Aarset’s ECM album Dream Logic was released in 2012. Aarset recently recorded again for ECM in an improvising quartet with Tigran Hamasyan, Arve Henriksen and Jan Bang. Other ECM appearances include Nils Petter Molvӕr’s influential Khmer and Solid Ether, Small Labyrinths with Marilyn Mazur’s Future Song, Arild Andersen’s Electra, John Hassell’s Last Night The Moon Came…, Ketil Bjørnstad’s La Notte, and Food’s Mercurial Balm.
The Andy Sheppard Quartet plays at the ECM label night at the Jazzahead fair in Bremen on April 25, and follows with concerts, club gigs and festival appearances in Hungary, Belgium, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. For more details visit the tour pages of the ECM website www.ecmrecords.com and Andy Sheppard’s site www.andysheppard.co.uk