SAXOPHONIST Andy Sheppard returns to his south Wiltshire roots next month in collaboration with tabla player Kuljit Bhamra as part of Salisbury International Arts Festival.

One of Britain’s foremost saxophonists, renowned for his collaboration with musicians from all genres, Andy was brought up in Salisbury and attended Bishop Wordsworth’s School in the city. For Andy, the festival gig will also see him return to a venue that is very dear to his heart.

“When I left Bishop’s, I was on my way to art college and I bumped into Geoff Williams (pianist). This changed my life forever because Geoff introduced me to sax player John Coltrane.” What followed was a young Andy Sheppard bursting on to the jazz scene, playing his first-ever gig in his home city at Salisbury Arts Centre, where he and Kuljit will perform on Thursday, May 28.

“I seem to have played everywhere in the world except China, but I have never lost sight of the fact that south Wiltshire is where my roots are. You should always keep your feet in the area you are from.”

Performing with Kuljit is also nothing new, for they have worked together for several years and the tabla player is part of Andy’s group playing on his new album for the ECM Records Label. But it is not music from this album that will be played at the festival.

“A lot of what we do when we play as a duo is quite improvised, quite experimental. For the festival we are creating a soundscape, or rather a suite inspired by rivers – the five rivers that run through Salisbury and the five rivers of Kuljit’s roots in the Punjab.”

“Kuljit and I are worlds in collision – an improvised sax player from Salisbury and an Indian musician whose family roots are from the Punjab.”

Three years ago, Andy performed in another collaborative piece at Salisbury Festival, this time with the pianist Joanna McGregor where the musicians provided a live music score to silent films.

“It was memorable in that we had to play to a Buster Keaton movie I had never seen before, such is improvisation,” he says, adding that he thinks the “piece I will be doing with Kuljit is going to be atmospheric. I am a real fan of Nick Drake’s music and I might be including some of his tunes in the suite”.

Andy has a long association with jazz quartet, Sphere, who played at a special reunion gig in the city in 2007.

He would also love to bring his band to Salisbury, maybe next year.

  • Tickets for Andy Sheppard and Kuljit Bhamra are available from the box office on 0845 241 9651.