By Frank Alkyer


Shawn Maxwell’s Alliance, Bridge (Chicago Sessions)

This five-song album is the excellent follow-up to the self-titled debut of Shawn Maxwell’s Alliance from earlier this year. Maxwell, a Chicago-based alto saxophonist and flutist, demonstrates his ambitious vision on both outings. The Alliance is a driving tentet of unusual instrumentation. Not many jazz bands consist of two French horns, two basses, vibraphone, vocals, guitar, drums, alto saxophone and soprano sax. But it works. The vibes of Stephen Lynerd play it cool alongside the cutting guitar riffs of Mitch Corso. Keri Johnsrud’s ethereal voice plays well against the saxophone lines of Maxwell and Casey Fitzpatrick. The title track for Bridge bounces along quirkily, with horn lines coming in seemingly from all directions. “Monster Shoes” has a catchy bass/French horn-driven hook. “Ava” is a beautiful ballad where voice and saxophone share the melody. “Sector 7-G” digs into a bit of a Latin groove before shape-shifting into its own inner musical monologue. And “Plan Z” caps the set with some very cool saxophone overdubbing. Maxwell’s sense of humor shines throughout the program. He’s an artist with unique ideas and his own sound palette, and this disc offers further evidence of his terrific ear for composition and arrangement. This is bold music. Maxwell isn’t afraid to try out new ideas and take chances. On Bridge, that risk-taking pays off—big time.

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