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Shawn Maxwell Quartet: Maxwell's House

Dan McClenaghan By

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Chicago-based multi-reedist Shawn Maxwell's third disc as a leader, Maxwell's House, follows in the footsteps of his Originals (Self Published, 2006) and Originals II (Self Published, 2008). All three sets possess a solid mainstream quartet sound, with the piano/bass/drums rhythm team fronted by the leader's tangy-toned alto saxophone.

The disc opens with the highly-caffeinated title tune. Maxwell spits sharp notes into the stop-and-go rhythm that gives way to fluid and intensely-pretty piano turn by Matt Nelson. The leader then gets a bit "out there" with some jagged lines.

"Shuffled" exudes a dark, prowling mood in its intro. Then things brighten up with some shining quartet interplay and percussive piano. "Five" is a rare ballad in 5/4, and is as lovely as tunes of slow tempo come. "If Only," co-written by Nelson and Matt Nischan, is the only non-Maxwell tune on any of Maxwell's three discs to date, fitting nicely into an up-tempo groove, while "Ava" swings in a gentle waltz time.

Throughout, the saxophonist's tart, biting tone is reminiscent of Jackie McLean. If Maxwell decides, at some point, to branch his recording efforts into the non-original realm, a cover of McLean's "Little Melonae" would be a perfect vehicle.

Maxwell takes his inspiration where he finds it, visiting "Sector 7-G," Homer Simpson's work locale from the popular television series, The Simpsons. A hint of funk bubbles beneath the spice of Maxwell's horn on yet another engaging original that features, again, a lively piano solo. "Different Colors of Cool" conjures Art Pepper's sound and intensity, and the set's closer, "Dangerous Curve" bores ahead with a relentless momentum, a hard-driving wrap-up to another very engaging workout by Shawn Maxwell.

Track Listing: Maxwell's House; Shuffled; Five; Jathor; Ava; If Only; Welcome; Sector 7-G; Different Colors of Cool; Dangerous Curve.

Personnel: Shawn Maxwell: alto saxophone; Matt Nelson: piano; Kevin Martinez: bass; Brandon Dickert: drums.

Title: Maxwell's House | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Chicago Sessions

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