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Shepherd, a Cape Town native who will turn 26 this summer, plays piano with old-soul authority and composes rich, evocative music. He’s very much grounded in the myriad and compelling sounds of his homeland, but there’s a personal stamp on his art and an awareness of jazz beyond South Africa to it too. The latter adds dimension but never overtakes the music’s beautiful and powerful sense of rootedness.”  Peter Hum, International Jazz blogger, Jazzblog.ca 

“This is improvisation as a search for freedom, “freedom from”, yes, but also “freedom to”, a key to unlock the doors of music making in the future”. Miles Keylock, Editor-in-Chief, Rolling Stone South Africa

Kyle Shepherd, one of South Africa’s leading progressive Jazz pianists and composers of his generation, is steadily gaining international recognition for his distinctive compositional style and performances.

The multi South African Music Awards (SAMA) nominated virtuoso pianist and winner of the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz, already has a well-established record of celebrated solo, trio and quartet performances in South Africa, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands and China.

WATCH THE LATEST  KYLE SHEPHERD VIDEO INTERVIEW / FEATURE HERE

 The twenty-six-year-old Shepherd, whose first three albums, namely, fineART, A Portrait of Home and South African History !X  were all nominated for South African Music Awards in the Jazz category and have received critical acclaim internationally, will launch his debut solo piano album, recorded in Japan, in the East- Asian country during November 2013.

Shepherd is steadily gaining a reputation internationally as one of South Africa’s most influential and inventive Jazz pianists and composers of his generation. As a pianist, saxophonist, Xaru player (traditional mouth-bow) he has forged a unique compositional and performance concept that pays homage to all his musical influences and the many great musicians he has worked with, all while continuing to look forward musically in a way, which, in the words of the great South African Jazz writer and historian, Gwen Ansell,live in the jazz world but are never imprisoned by it”.

In September 2013, Shepherd performed his latest project, Xamissa, Place of Sweet Waters, to critical acclaim at the Festival d’Automne à Paris (Paris Autumn Festival). Xamissa, which was commissioned by the festival, is a large-scale compositional work which, Shepherd says, “brings together the sounds and cultures of Cape Town by incorporating the Xhosa, Afrikaans and English languages – with the use of voices, piano, the Xaru, the ghoema drums and tenor saxophone.”

Shepherd regularly performs in concert as a solo pianist, while also leading his Trio with Shane Cooper (double bass) and Jonno Sweetman (drums) and his Quartet featuring Claude Cozens (drums), Benjamin Jephta (bass) and top South African – tenor saxophonist – Buddy Wells. Shepherd’s Asian Trio comprises Seigo Matsunaga [JP] (double bass) Sebastien Kaptein [NL] (drums).

Apart from South Africa, Shepherd has also performed in Japan,  Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, France, Denmark, Malaysia, China, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana  and Zimbabwe, with notable concert appearances at  Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord and L’Onde Théâtre et Centre d’art as part of the 2013 Festival d’Automne à Paris (France), The Bird’s Eye Jazz Club (Switzerland), Der Sendesaal, (Germany), Reformierte Dorfkirche Kleinhüningen (Switzerland), Klubschule St. Gallen (Switzerland), Shikiori (Japan), The Aarhus Jazz Festival (Denmark), Jazzwerkstatt Festival Bern (Switzerland), The Cape Town International Jazz Festival (South Africa), The Tianjin International Jazz Festival (China)  and The Riverboat Jazz Festival (Denmark).

Some of the great musicians Shepherd has performed with in his illustrious career include the Late Zim Ngqawana, Louis Moholo-Moholo, the Late Robbie Jansen, Errol Dyers, Hilton Schilder, Mark Fransman and Ayanda Sikade, all from South Africa, as well as Saadet Türköz (Switzerland), Marc Stucki (Switzerland), Seigo Matsunaga (Japan), Sebastiaan Kaptein (Holland) and Ole Hamre (Norway).

Shepherd featured in the AWARD WINNING theatre production, ‘AFRIKAAPS’ for which he directed & co-wrote the music, and also performed in.

Film documentaries that feature his music are: ‘AFRIKAAPS’ by Dylan Valley, ‘The Uprising of Hangberg’ by Dylan Valley & world-renowned film maker Aryan Kaganof. Shepherd was also commissioned to compose a new work for the music production ‘Die Buitestaanders’ by Mareli Stolp & Magdalene Minnaar.

Album & Concert Review Highlights:

In his Foreword to Shepherd’s Debut Album “fineART”, internationally acclaimed South African music legend, the late Zim Ngqawana had the following to say about Shepherd’s music:

Authenticity is another word for originality and this is clearly evident in Kyle’s compositions, arrangements and improvisation. He has managed to find a balance between the intellect and intuition. Kyle is a meditator and a poet.”

Shepherd, a Cape Town native who will turn 26 this summer, plays piano with old-soul authority and composes rich, evocative music. He’s very much grounded in the myriad and compelling sounds of his homeland, but there’s a personal stamp on his art and an awareness of jazz beyond South Africa to it too. The latter adds dimension but never overtakes the music’s beautiful and powerful sense of rootedness.”  Peter Hum, International Jazz blogger, Jazzblog.ca

As a composer and arranger Shepherd is proving to be one of the chief architects of modern Cape jazz.” Andre Manuel, The Cape Times

“This is improvisation as a search for freedom, “freedom from”, yes, but also “freedom to”, a key to unlock the doors of music making in the future”. Miles Keylock, Editor-in-Chief, Rolling Stone South Africa

In his review of the Trio album, “A Portrait of Home”, international music critic, Marcus O’Dair | The Arts Desk UK, commends the work of the Trio. “A Portrait Of Home sees Shepherd, together with Shane Cooper on double bass and drummer Jonno Sweetman, creating music of subtle yet tremendous power. Though the technique of all three is undeniable, this is no antiseptic chopsfest: it is music of genuine passion, meditative and stately but always emotionally engaged. It has groove at its very core, with hummable, stripped back melodies on top – and not just in the “head” sections that traditionally top and tail jazz arrangements.”

I believe that on fineART, Shepherd carries the torch for this style of music.” Don Albert (Financial Mail)

(His compositions) unashamedly display his cultural music traditions, drawing on the unique rhythms, harmonies, and melodic devices of what Kyle calls “music from home”. Carol Martin (SAJE – South African Association for Jazz Education).

It’s this ‘Proudly South African’ tradition that audiences can expect to hear” … “which sees the multi-instrumentalist navigate an impressionistic collage of South African jazz sounds, from slam poetic minimalist re-imaginings of Afrikaans volksliedjies and Muslim calls to prayer, to goema groove deconstructions, tributes to Abdullah Ibrahim, Ngqawana’s philosophy of “Zimology” and more that, as the doyen of South African jazz scribes Gwen Ansell pointed out in Business Day recently: “live in the jazz world but are never imprisoned by it”. Miles Keylock (Mail & Guardian)

Shepherd’s jagged edges and questioning dissonances sound far more like Ibrahim at the start of his career than his magisterial solemnity. The young player’s plaintive little minor-key segues into fragments of musical fragments represent a sonic collage of his city, much as pianist Robert Glasper’s sounds (also heard this year in Cape Town) collage the jazz history and hip-hop present of New York. ” Gwen Ansell (Business Day / The Weekender)

Shepherd is an outstanding pianist …. His ability to craft extensive melodic passages and tangents takes one on a musical journey.” Keenan Oakes (Artspoken, Artslink)