Over the past decade and change woodwind player Shawn Maxwell has established himself as an innovative composer and a sophisticated improviser. Each of his recordings is simultaneously unique and bears his indelible signature style Music In My Mind is no different. Using a few different ensembles Maxwell has crafted a remarkably cohesive work that brims with poetry. The intricately constructed originals allow individual expressions, that crackle with spontaneity, to meander within them resulting in an organic and vibrant album.
The energetic “Another Monday”, for instance opens with the band members overlapping their individual instrumental voices to mimic the hustle and bustle of a morning commute. Pianist Matt Nelson lets loose a darkly hued and simmering solo over drummer Phil Beale’s exacting beats. Maxwell on the alto and trumpeter Victor Garcia contribute short, yearning phrases. The impressionistic piece closes with Nelson gracefully returning to the thrilling head.
Equally engaging and delightfully complex the title track opens with bassist Junius Paul’s reverberating strings. Garcia’s mellow horn and vocalist Dee Alexander’s agile voice echo one another to haunting effect. Garcia’s mellifluous and suave improvisation marks the first part of the tune as the rhythm section percolates in the background. Maxwell’s alto soars in a stimulating extemporization over the collective performance that has hints of western classical influences.
The enchanting “King Bill”, on the other hand, is like a musical fairy tale. Percussionist Kalyan Pathak makes his instruments thunder as Maxwell on his clarinet blows an eastern influenced, intriguing song. As the duet progresses it becomes exhilaratingly dynamic all the while remaining charmingly lyrical.
On the funky “Glamasue” Maxwell switches to flute and engages trumpeter Chad McCullough in a soaring and electrifying dialogue over the group’s soulful vamps. McCullough’s burnished tones and unhurried elegant delivery complement Nelson’s acerbic and resonant keys while bassist Tim Seisser dazzles with his virtuoisity.
With every addition to his discography Maxwell successfully explores new and bold ideas while remaining rooted in the fundamentals that characterize his artistic output. Music In My Mind also follows that model. It is refreshingly distinct yet recognizably Maxwellian. Thus, it makes for a satisfying listening experience.