“A proud South African, Shepherd is also a striving musician with ears attuned to the cutting-edge, globe-spanning music.” – Peter Hum, The Ottawa Citizen, CANADA
Kyle Shepherd is arguably one of South Africa’s leading progressive pianists, composers and band leaders of his generation.
Internationally recognized for his distinctive compositional style & performances, Shepherd has made a huge impression on debut as a film score composer for the critically-acclaimed film, Noem My Skollie / Call Me Thief – South Africa’s official entry to the 2017 Academy Awards – for which he scored a nomination for the 2017 South African Film & Television Award [SAFTA] for Best Achievement in an Original Music Score in a Feature Film. He was awarded the 2018 South African Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Award: Book, Creative Collection and Digital Contribution 2018, hosted by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), for ´Best Musical Composition´ for his composition, ´Noem My Skollie´! Shepherd’s music also features prominently in independent film-maker Nadine Cloete’s documentary, Action Kommandant, based on the untold story of the young South African revolutionary freedom fighter, Ashley Kriel.
In March / April 2018, Shepherd´s musical soundtrack was featured in Lhola Amira´s multi-media arts exhibition, entitled ´Sinking: Xa Sinqamla Unxubo`, at the renowned SMAC Gallery in Cape Town. The twenty-nine-year-old virtuoso pianist who has a well-established record of celebrated performances in South Africa, Europe, Asia (including Japan, India and China), Canada and the USA, has already released seven critically acclaimed albums in his young career.
In 2016, Shepherd was invited to curate the 49th SWR NEWJazz Meeting in Germany. This episode of the prestigious 2016 NEWJazz Meeting comprised four days’ of rehearsals in the broadcasting studios of the Südwestrundfunk, followed by a concert tour in the SWR broadcasting area from 25 to 27 November 2016. A Double Album entitled SWR NEWJazz Meeting 2016: Sound Portraits From Contemporary Africa comprising the best performance tracks recorded during the concert tour, was released under the SWR Jazzhaus label in 2017! The album features Kyle Shepherd on piano & keyboard, Lionel Loueke [Benin / USA] on guitar & vocals, Mthunzi Mvubu – on saxophone, Shane Cooper on bass & Jonno Sweetman on drums & percussion.
The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack composed by Shepherd for the feature film ‘Noem My Skollie / Call Me Thief’ was released in November 2016. ‘Dream State’, a 21-track double album of his Trio released in 2014 garnered nominations for both the 2015 South African Music Award [SAMA] and a 2015 Metro FM Music Award in the Jazz Category. His debut solo piano offering ‘Into Darkness’, recorded in Japan, was launched with a tour in the South-East Asian country in the same year  and included a performance at the prestigious Tokyo Jazz Festival. Previous releases ‘fineART ’, ‘A Portrait of Home’  & ‘South African History !X’ , also attracted SAMA nominations.
The award-winning pianist, recipient of both the coveted ‘UNISA National Piano Competition Award  and the ‘Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year’ Award  in the Jazz Category was selected for the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s [SABC 3] ‘21 ICONS South Africa Season III’ [November 2015] for “his ability to transcend cultural barriers by using music as an art form to communicate commonalities and differences across diverse nations. He has used his aptitude for music as a thread to embrace and harness creativity in society.” Shepherd regularly performs in concert as a Solo pianist, while also leading his Trio which features Shepherd on piano, Shane Cooper on double bass and Jonno Sweetman on drums as well as his Quintet with Shepherd on piano, Benjamin Jephta on bass, Lwanda Gogwana on trumpet, Sisonke Xonti on tenor sax & Marlon Witbooi on drums. Shepherd is also a member of the Carlo Mombelli ‘Stories’ Quartet, various Louis Moholo-Moholo ensembles, Kesivan & the Lights – who performed at Carnegie Hall, New York in 2014, The Benjamin Jephta Quartet and Skyjack, a South African-Swiss collaboration which launched their debut self-entitled album in Switzerland in January 2016 and embarked on a national tour of South Africa in September 2016.
Kyle Shepherd graduated with a Masters of Music degree cum laude from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africain 2018.
Apart from South Africa, Shepherd has also performed in Japan, USA, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, France, Denmark, India, Malaysia, China, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe, with notable concert appearances, either as a solo pianist or trio, quartet and other formats at Carnegie Hall (USA), Klavierhaus (USA), 2016 SWR NEWJazz Meeting (Germany) at Alte Feuerwache (Mannheim), Sudhaus (Tübingen), Tollhaus (Karlsruhe), The Bird’s Eye Jazz Club (Switzerland), La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland), Jazzwerkstatt Festival Bern (Switzerland), Reformierte Dorfkirche Kleinhüningen (Switzerland), Klubschule St. Gallen (Switzerland), BeFlat Jazz Club (Germany), Der Sendesaal, (Germany), Hallenbad Kultur Am Schactweg, (Germany), The Tokyo Jazz Festival (Japan), Garaman Hall (Japan), Body & Soul Jazz Club (Japan), Shikiori (Japan), Kaho Gekijo Kabuki Theatre (Japan), Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord and L’Onde Théâtre et Centre d’art as part of the Festival d’Automne à Paris (France), The Aarhus Jazz Festival (Denmark), The Cape Town International Jazz Festival (South Africa), The Joy of Jazz Festival (South Africa), The National Arts Festival, Grahamstown (South Africa), The Gaborone International Music and Culture Week Festival (Botswana), The Orbit Jazz Club (South Africa), The Wits Great Hall (South Africa), CCFM – The Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano (Mozambique), The Mahikeng Jazz Festival (South Africa), Harare International Festival – HIFA (Zimbabwe),The Tianjin International Jazz Festival (China), No Black Tie (Malaysia), MICA (India), B-Flat (India), The Gonsalves Mansion ‘Home of Jazz’ (India) and Canada’s Ottawa International Jazz Festival, Victoria International Jazz Festival, Vancouver International Jazz Festival & Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
Album & Concert Review Highlights:
“This is a true trio – intricately intertwining as they play Shepherd’s music; pensive and exhilarating by turns.” Nigel Vermaas, South Africa
“This was an impressive concert with a dramatic variety in dynamics and rhythms. I particularly appreciated the emotion and power the trio put into their performance: this was not the dry-as-dust technically perfect show I’ve heard from some New York players, but a joyous performance.” – Alayne McGregor, Ottawa Jazz Scene, CANADA
“A proud South African, Shepherd is also a striving musician with ears attuned to the cutting-edge, globe-spanning music made by influences such as Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran and Craig Taborn. Much of Shepherd’s concert found him, bassist Shane Cooper and drummer Jonno Sweetman exploring a more craggy and contemporary musical turf, and successfully so.” – Peter Hum, The Ottawa Citizen, CANADA
“… it’s in his linking of international influences with his own local traditions that his strength lies.” – Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast [UK]
“… a straight-ahead modern jazz piano sound, where well-crafted melodies are the vehicle to coast over the surface of tight, dynamic rhythms.” – Dave Sumner, Wondering Sound [NY, USA]
In the ‘Dream State’ album’s liner notes, renowned arts journalist, Percy Mabandu succinctly described the ethos of the trio in this way:
“There’s a palpable connectedness they share as players, a connection that also touches attuned audiences at their live performances too. This band is on a search for more than beautiful notes. They are asking more of the music. Its corporeal and ethereal aspects are invoked into the simultaneous sound ritual. Each performance takes on the nature of a meditation and as Zim Ngqawana said, ‘the music must lead us towards ourselves’. ”
“Repeat listening to the same material on record underlines what a distinctive voice Shepherd now has. Those fragments of musical home that have always characterised his compositions and playing are still there; the reworkings, though, are often unexpected and subtle, emerging from a modern and personal pianism that isn’t in anybody’s shadow. Dream State joins an impressive 2014 list of albums of the year.” Gwen Ansell, Arts Journalist, Author & Historian, Business Day
“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.”
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.”
“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)