3

Shawn Maxwell: Shawn Maxwell's Alliance

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Shawn Maxwell: Shawn Maxwell's Alliance In the liner notes for Shawn Maxwell's Alliance, the Chicago-based multi-reedist is transparent as can be. He makes note of the fact that this project was born out of a conscious desire to do something different and pull away from the commonplace quartet and quintet formats that are so prevalent today. He also notes that he initially had no intention of recording this group, and that some of these numbers are "sketches," not fully fleshed out compositions.

While the information cited above is admittedly cherry-picked from the liner notes to make a point, it's a point worth making: Maxwell sounds like a bit of an apologist for this music. It's just hard to understand why he's apologizing. Yes, this is a very different project for Maxwell, but it's one that shows great creative growth on his part.

It only takes a few minutes to realize that Maxwell's muses for this project are textural variety and juxtaposition-based experimentation. When somebody puts together a dectet that includes two basses, two French horns, a soprano saxophonist, a multi-reedist, guitar, wordless vocals, vibraphone and drums, they're bound to go with a tie-them-together or play-them-against-each-other philosophy. Maxwell works both angles a bit, but primarily leans on the latter idea.

While including eighteen tracks on an album may seem like overkill, it turns out to be a good thing for Maxwell. He's able to use his creative moxie in short bursts, trying different things and then abandoning them for others. With thirteen of the eighteen tracks in the one-to-four minute range, Maxwell is able to appeal to the ever-growing short-attention-span crowd and stave off potential boredom that could be brought on by run-on songs.

Minimalism, riff-based counterpoint, high-low sonic pairings and a touch of humor are the four tools that are used most frequently on this album. Horns are pitched against basses before guitar and drums work beneath flute ("Lynes Crayons"), instruments are layered one-by-one ("EGOT"), and nightmarish scenes come and go quickly ("Quartan"). The music can be hypnotic ("From Parts Unknown"), but it doesn't always go that way. Maxwell is just as likely to poke fun at those waiting for a "jazz" song ("Here's Your Swing Tune") or create a clarinet-fronted faux folk piece ("Shadowbox") as he is to stack things up. Some of these numbers never really grow legs, but it doesn't matter too much since they're gone in a flash; that's another advantage of the small portion method of creation and programming.

While this is the fifth album from Maxwell, it's the first one to feature such a unique combination of instruments. Ultimately, it's a step in a good direction. This band has a lot of potential and it'll be nice to see how it develops if Maxwell keeps it in play.


Track Listing: Fun Five Funk; Lynes Crayons; EGOT; From Parts Unknown; Song For Something Else; Plaza; Waiting Food; Pistols N' Tulips; Bitty Bitty Beep; Quartan; Radio Hit Number Four; Here's Your Swing Tune; Little Ninja Groove; Perpetual Day One; Looking For Alex; Full Count; Shadowbox; You Alright? I Learned It By Watching You.

Personnel: Shawn Maxwell: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Chris Greene: soprano saxophone; Keri Johnsrud: voice; Stephen Lynerd: vibraphone, percussion; Mitch Corso:guitar; Rachel Maxwell: french horn; Meghan Fulton: french horn; Stacy McMichael: bass; Marc Piane: bass; Paul Townsend: drums.

Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Chicago Sessions | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Blue Monday" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Monday
by James Nadal
Published: March 20, 2016
Read "Blooming Tall Phlox" CD/LP/Track Review Blooming Tall Phlox
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "A Zoology of the Future" CD/LP/Track Review A Zoology of the Future
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 31, 2016
Read "Of The Night" CD/LP/Track Review Of The Night
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 30, 2016
Read "Omío" CD/LP/Track Review Omío
by James Nadal
Published: August 31, 2016
Read "Intuitus" CD/LP/Track Review Intuitus
by John Eyles
Published: April 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!