Archie Shepp (born May 24, 1937) is an American jazz saxophonist.
Shepp was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied piano, clarinet, and alto saxophone before focusing on tenor saxophone. He occasionally plays soprano saxophone and piano. He studied drama at Goddard College from 1955 to 1959.
He played in a Latin jazz band for a short time before joining the band of avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor. Shepp’s first recording under his own name, Archie Shepp – Bill Dixon Quartet, was released on Savoy Records in 1962 and featured a composition by Ornette Coleman. Along with John Tchicaiand Don Cherry, he was a member of the New York Contemporary Five. John Coltrane‘s admiration led to recordings for Impulse! Records, the first of which was Four for Trane in 1964, an album of mainly Coltrane compositions on which he was joined by trombonist Roswell Rudd, bassist Reggie Workman and alto player John Tchicai.
Shepp participated in the sessions for Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in late 1964, but none of the takes he participated in were included on the final LP release (they were made available for the first time on a 2002 reissue). However, Shepp, along with Tchicai and others from the Four for Tranesessions, then recorded Ascension with Coltrane in 1965, and his place alongside Coltrane at the forefront of the avant-garde jazz scene was epitomized when the pair split a record (the first side a Coltrane set, the second a Shepp set) entitled New Thing at Newport released in late 1965.