Shawn Maxwell’s New Tomorrow returns two years after the release of their eponymous album on OA2 Records. The new CD, Music in My Mind, features ten electric originals performed by the original septet – Maxwell on alto sax, clarinet and flute; trumpeters Victor Garcia, Chad McCullough and Corey Wilkes; keyboardist Matt Nelson; bassist Junius Paul; and drummer Phil Beale – plus a few new additions that envision diversification through their personal approach to sound.
Vocalist Dee Alexander is one of them, lending her voice to the first two tracks. “Our Princess Is In Another Castle” starts like a frolicsome delirium with a cyclic saxophone slogan, snare drum rudiments (typical from a march), and trumpet countermelodies. Their energetic actions dilute to accommodate more pacific passages aligned with voice and horn lines. An engaging improvised dialogue in the form of question-answer then starts between Maxwell and McCullough, brought up with abandonment and eventually intersecting in the last minute.
In turn, the title track, “Music In My Mind”, comes equipped with two melodic ideas on the theme, effectively built by piano and voice (in strict collaboration with the horn section). After a sharp individual statement by Garcia, the musicians embark on a swift, complex counterpoint steeped in the classical genre. Maxwell reserves a solemn section played in five for himself, delivering an estimable improvisation on alto saxophone before returning to the previous classical mood.
The groovy sound of the Fender Rhodes on “Maxwell’s House” gives it a special funky flavor that melds with some R&B sparkle. Nelson and the bandleader are the ones in charge of the improvisations. Also carrying a smooth funk at its core, “He Gone” has its crossover panache softened by amiable flute melodies. The bass groove and stylish slides are from Patrick Mulcahy and the muted-trumpet articulation is the fruit of Wilkes’ labor. Also “Glamasue”, a song that first appeared in Maxwell’s debut album Originals, thrives with the Incognito-style funk bass delivered by Tim Seisser, whereas the playful “Another Monday”, anchored in an expressive motif, brings that sort of jazz-rock vibe offered by Donald Fagen in his Kamakiriad album.
Promoting diversification within a modern approach, the band devises “King Bill” (another piece from Originals) with danceable swinging motions, zealous percussive attacks, and passionate clarinet lines that evoke the jazz tradition, and “Snow Snow” with a harmonization that feels closer to pop music.
Maxwell and his associates dabble in a colorful urban jazz that stews with heat. Adopting a feel-good posture that rejects any kind of pessimism, the band provides the listener with ear-pleasing melody, lively interactions, and catchy orchestrations.