Shawn Maxwell – alto saxophone;
Matt Nelson – piano; Bob Lovecchio – bass;
Brandon Dickert – drums.
Recorded 3/13 & 3/20/2011.
Produced by Nick Eipers and Shawn Maxwell. Engineered by Nick Eipers.
3 Stars! ("Good!") – Downbeat Magazine
“... music played by a tight-knit group that knows each other's moves, with studio sessions that play like a club set.”
- John Ephland, Downbeat Magazine
“Invariably, mention is made of Shawn Maxwell’s tone. It has invited comparisons to Kenny Garrett’s, Jackie McLean’s or Art Pepper’s. On his Urban Vigilante performance, intimations of Phil Woods appear as well. In the end, the comparisons represent unsatisfactory attempts to describe Maxwell’s distinctive, burly sound, certainly not sweet like Desmond’s or Konitz’s, and yet still fully expressive with a slight vibrato, undulating dynamics and extensions of notes for their full value... Maxwell leads a cohesive, exhilarating quartet of musicians equally inspired by the possibilities presented while they perform. Bassist Bob Lovecchio’s vamp establishes the atmosphere for “Charlie Work,” which veers between minor and major roots, and between abrupt stops and starts. And drummer Brandon Dickert creates the initial tension of “Special Order” with an extended solo that leads, after its end, into a bass and piano undercurrent roiling Maxwell’s melody of long tones stretching over the streaming rhythm as volume builds and then fades... to silence. But the group’s mutual support and unity of purpose combine to create separate overall moods for each of the tracks. The mysteriousness of the metrically tricky “Monster Shoes,” accentuated by the minimization of Nelson’s chords and the clip-clopping of Dickert’s propulsion, contrasts with ethereal float of “Beyond Infinity,” a reference to Buzz Lightyear’s exclamation. Maxwell’s quartet does have a lot of fun with the concept and with the music... The group’s cohesiveness, the intriguing compositions and Maxwell’s always appealing sound invite attention and enjoyment.”
- Bill Donaldson, Cadence Magazine
“... clearly his best work yet. For starters, there’s Maxwell’s sound––it’s unique for an alto, where everyone tries to sound like Bird or Cannonball. And if you don’t sound like Bird or Cannonball, someone will tell you that you sound like Jackie McLean. Maxwell sounds like none of the above, and actually gets a fairly heavy sound out of the alto––it sometimes hints at Kenny Garrett, but at this point even the Garrett influence (that Maxwell himself would call his most obvious) is becoming obscured. These days, Shawn Maxwell sounds like Shawn Maxwell, and that’s a great thing... People liking their jazz acoustic, straight-ahead and in the pocket will have lots to love here.”
- Paul Abella, Chicago Jazz Magazine
“...runs the gamut from the dark, noirish “Monster Shoes” to more upbeat fare like the forcefully swinging “Juggernaut”, the buoyant, Latin-flavored “Starscream” and the brightly appealing title track... The common thread running through this varied program is the sound of Maxwell's potent, facile sax lines, which comfortably straddle old-school and contemporary jazz camps.”
- Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times Magazine
“... the noticeable new wrinkles in Maxwell’s studio persona lift his already distinctive playing to another level. You hear this most immediately in the unusual, even striking articulation Maxwell applies to phrase after phrase of his solos on Urban Vigilante... you’ll find that these devices have purpose; they disturb the lines in small but important ways, and it makes a world of difference. “It emphasizes things in a way you don’t usually hear them,” Maxwell explains of his approach to articulation. And when added to his timbre – with its keening bittersweet urgency and swirling overtones and nearly physical presence – these devices help mold an edgy and powerful improvisatory style.
Maxwell’s decision to reveal his real musical self in his solos dovetails with the more adventurous and challenging compositions he unveils on Urban Vigilante... So we get to see the writer, as well as the player, behind the mask.”
- Neil Tesser (from the liner notes)
Shawn was very active in the Joliet Central High School band program, under the direction of Ted Lega. He attended Joliet Junior College in fall of 1994, later transferred to Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois and received a Bachelors Degree in Commercial Music in 1999.
He began his professional career as an entertainer on a Caribbean cruise line. After a few years of touring he moved back to the Chicago area. The Shawn Maxwell Quartet was put together in 2004. In late 2004, Shawn took the band into the studio to record his debut CD, “Originals.” The album featured all original compositions. In 2006 Shawn signed with the prestigious and legendary Conn-Selmer Company to join their Performance and Educational Artist Roster. In 2008 Shawn released his second album, “Originals II,” consisting of another twelve of shawn’s compositions.
In 2010 Shawn recorded his first CD for the Chicago Sessions label, “Maxwell’s House.” The album features his current quartet performing ten new originals. Neil Tesser wrote: “His alto timbre sits in a lineage exemplified by past giants like Jackie McLean and Eric Dolphy, and by such latter-day players as Arthur Blythe and Steve Slagle.”
“'Maxwell’s House’ is a hard-swinging, deep in the pocket release... Maxwell’s tone and sense of time are captivating... Strong compositions, a deep sense of time feel and an emphasis on melody” wrote Matthew Warnock at All About Jazz.
Shawn currently performs with The Shawn Maxwell Quartet as well as several other groups. In addition to his busy
performance schedule Shawn maintains a private lesson studio of 40 students, ranging from beginner to college level,
and continues to work as a clinician with young performers throughout the Chicago area.