Shawn Maxwell, Millstream Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Saxophonist and composer Shawn Maxwell is releasing his album Millstream on the Jazzline record label. The Chicago-based musician describes the eleven tracks on the album, “Jackie McLean and Cannonball Adderley are two of my heroes, and I guess you probably wouldn’t even think of it listening to me play. But I’ve transcribed them and been influenced hugely by them. I love Cannonball. But I’m not gonna be Cannonball.” All of the songs are original compositions by Maxwell and continues his cannon from his nine albums that focus on original compositions. The jazz tradition forms the foundation of Millstream, but there is also influence of the sound he grew up with – rock, funk, hip hop, R&B, and classical. Joining Maxwell is Collin Clauson – Rhodes, piano & Wurlitzer; Jeremiah Hunt – bass; Phil Beale – drums; and Chad McCullough – Flugelhorn (4), trumpet (8).
“Ravage Eject” has a deep R&B groove and uses various time signatures to create a modern jazz sound that is stimulating. Maxwell builds his solo with intensity and clarity as Clauson supports and adds harmonic colors. The feel is fluid, and the ensemble interacts in a very conversational manner. Clauson’s solo also builds. The head is musical, and the ensemble delivers a memorable solo section.
“Sold Separately” explores the musical relationship between two melodies. The number is exciting and integrates jazz with R&B, which carries the frame forward before the solos take off on creative explorations. As the number progresses, bassist Hunt displays his big pocket feel with weight and force as drummer Beale provides attractive colors from his drum-kit. The ensemble builds under Maxwell’s solo to another heated but musical climax.
Millstream contains eleven tracks that are modern compositions, and they are unmistakable in their attribution. The ensemble creates solid grooves, and the solos show precise command of the jazz history and are full of creativity and surprise.