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Shawn Maxwell

“Nobody writes like this.” – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

As a composer, recording artist and performer, saxophonist Shawn Maxwell has endeavored to express his own unique voice. From his latest album Millstream (Jazzline, 2020) to his debut Originals (self-released, 2005), he has released nine albums of original compositions. The traditions of jazz form the foundation for Shawn’s music; he builds on that with material from the music he grew up with – rock, funk, hip hop, R&B, classical. The result, as Hrayr Attarian wrote in Chicago Jazz Magazine, “is refreshingly distinct yet recognizably Maxwellian”. He’s not intent on following any rules – or on breaking them – but on continually expanding what his music encompasses.

“…a composer who’s confident in his artistic vision, and comfortable with the wide array of colors on his instrumental palette.” – Bobby Reed, Downbeat Magazine

For the past three years, Shawn has been touring the U.S. with his quintet Shawn Maxwell’s New Tomorrow. Their first album, Shawn Maxwell’s New Tomorrow (OA2/Origin, 2016), was named one of Downbeat Magazine’s “Best Albums of 2017”. The follow-up, Music in My Mind (OA2/Origin, 2018), was highly praised by critics and enthusiastically received by radio stations. It was chosen as a Downbeat Magazine Editor’s Pick in June 2018.

“…jaunty, angular melodies, deceptive time signatures, and metronomic rhythm arrangements – sound as if inhabited by the ghost of Zappa…” – Neil Tesser

Shawn Maxwell’s Alliance (Chicago Sessions, 2014) was the eponymous album from another of his projects. A ten-piece ensemble including voice, two French horns, two upright basses and vibraphone, they were praised by jazz critics (another Downbeat Editor’s Pick) and named on several “best of the year” lists. So unusual was the music that publications as diverse as Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange picked it up; “Not exactly the sort of band you're likely to hear in anyone's notion of the mainstream and thus highly attractive to progressive ears”. Alliance followed up with an E.P. later that year, Bridge (Chicago Sessions, 2014), which expanded on the sound of the group. “…a brief album full of rich musical ideas, colorful passages, and unique musical constructs.” said Dan Bilawky (AllAboutJazz.com).

“These days, Shawn Maxwell sounds like Shawn Maxwell, and that’s a great thing...” – Paul Abella, Chicago Jazz Magazine

Shawn’s groups also include a quartet, featured on his earliest recordings, Urban Vigilante, Maxwell’s House (Chicago Sessions 2011, 2009), Originals II and Originals (self-released, 2008, 2005). “an exciting figure on the Chicago jazz landscape” – Michael Barris, Downbeat Magazine

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★★★★ - Downbeat Magazine “Bravo.” – Bobby Reed, Downbeat Magazine 3 time Editors Pick – Downbeat Magazine “Nobody writes like this.” – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune “This is bold music. Maxwell isn’t afraid to try out new ideas and take chances….that risk-taking pays off—big time.”- Frank Alkyer‚ Downbeat Magazine

I first encountered saxophonist Shawn Maxwell when a copy of his debut album came into my hands two years ago. My initial reaction was that this artist was rather cocky; his titling of his album as "Originals" seemed at first to be absurdly audacious; but upon listening to it I discovered to my pleasure that his braggadio was true: he was truly an original in that his music was singularly his own and unattached to any particular genre. An artist in this era who doesn’t bow to trends, movements, short- sighted public attention spans or purely commercial drives and instead follows his own inner voice is rare indeed. Songs like "Dangerous Curve," "Lunch Box," "Clayton’s Carnival" and "The Sixth" presented a glimpse into the highly creative mind of a young man with aspirations and determination in abundance. Therefore, it was with extreme interest that I recently received his second album, Originals II, wherein the "original" elements that initially attracted me to his sound have not only been retained, but amplified with new weight and texture that speaks of experience gained through steady gigging and composing.

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Primary Instrument

Saxophone, alto




Concert Schedule

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Expectation &...

Self Produced


Music in My Mind

OA2 Records


Shawn Maxwell's...

Chicago Session LTD.



Chicago Sessions


Maxwell's House

Chicago Sessions


Maxwell's House

From: Music in My Mind
By Shawn Maxwell



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