To a remarkable degree, Shawn Maxwell has the urge—a quality fundamental to those who create improvised music on a nightly basis. In this way, it is not enough to simply create, but the need to innovate that guides each note. His art lies in addressing the ordinary modalities of life in an extraordinary way, placing notes in their most complimentary places with precision and enthusiasm. Of course, there’s the way he plays. Maxwell’s style was built around swelling harmonic runs while painting complex melodies across an expansive canvas. Each harmony he creates is purposeful in form as well as function.
By all accounts, Shawn Maxwell formed his style early on the tough and tumultuous streets of Joliet, Illinois. From the time a saxophone first touched his lips, Maxwell knew that music was his calling. With conviction and abilities that belied his age, it was equally clear to others that Shawn Maxwell was destined to be a musician. He quickly became a celebrated performer in the Joliet Central High School band program where his prowess as a soloist was on regular display. Shawn further refined his art in a post-secondary setting, absorbing all that his instructors could teach – earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Millikin University in 1999. Shawn then signed with the prestigious and legendary Conn-Selmer Company to join their Performance and Educational Artist Roster.
After starting his professional career touring Internationally, across the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, Maxwell returned home to conquer the Windy City. With equal parts genius and toil, Maxwell has become one the preeminent performers in the Chicago jazz landscape. His multi-instrumental talents have been lauded by fellow musicians and critics alike.
In late 2004, Maxwell took his group, The Shawn Maxwell Quartet, into the studio to record the tracks for what would eventually become his debut release, “Originals”. The album showcased Maxwell’s composition, arranging, and production skills while also highlighting the impressive skills of his group. Brad Walseth, of jazzchicago.net wrote that the album “…is like a refreshing burst of fresh air through the jazz world that can often seem closed and stale.”
2008 brought the release of his second album, “Originals II,” consisting of twelve compositions that further highlight Shawn’s maturation as a musician and band leader. In 2010 Shawn recorded his first CD, "Maxwell’s House," for the Chicago Sessions Jazz Label. "Maxwell’s House" features his current quartet performing ten new originals. In addressing the album, 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."
2011 marked the release of his second album, “Urban Vigilante” on the Chicago Sessions record label. Heralded at 3 stars by Downbeat Magazine, this album continues to race up the charts while garnering critical praise. The Shawn Maxwell Quartet can be seen performing at some of the most celebrated clubs and festivals across Chicago and the world, perhaps even a venue near you.
Released Feb 18th 2014, the latest disc from Shawn Maxwell, "Shawn Maxwell’s Alliance", features an impressive ensemble. This unique album will be released on the Chicago Sessions record label
Shawn Maxwell has recorded extensively with his own projects and as a sideman. Here is a selected discography: (click link to order)
Shawn Maxwell's Alliance (2014)
"Alliance" is an exciting 10pc group; a gathering of friends playing new music without stereotype.
Urban Vigilante (2011)
Shawn Maxwell Quartet: the group’s mutual support combine to create separate overall moods per track.
Maxwell’s House (2010)
Shawn Maxwell Quartet: a hard-swinging, deep in the pocket release.
Introducing Shawn Maxwell's 10pc Alliance