Shawn Maxwell formed his style early on while growing up in the rich musical history of the Joliet, Illinois school music programs. From the time a clarinet and 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 Chicago. His multi-instrumental talents have been lauded by fellow musicians and critics alike and Maxwell has become one the preeminent performers in the Chicago jazz landscape.
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 the country.
Released Feb 18th 2014, the latest disc from Shawn Maxwell, “Shawn Maxwell’s Alliance,” features an impressive ensemble. This unique album is released on the Chicago Sessions record label. The group has developed an avid following among critics and fans. Howard Reich writes, “Maxwell’s scores proved as unusual as his taste for instrumental color, the pieces shifting from jazz-swing rhythm one moment to classical downbeats the next, from bebop phraseology to long and incantatory phrases to perky, funk-tinged melody making… Nobody writes like this.”
Maxwell has expanded his repertoire to include guest appearances and master classes in educational settings as a Vandoren Regional Artist. His pedagogical skill combined with a performer’s sensibility has made him a favorite of elementary age through college students.