Shawn Maxwell – J Town Suite (ENG review)

Cora Streets Records – Street Date May 1st 2024
Shawn Maxwell - J Town Suite (ENG review)

Shawn Maxwell is an extremely talented composer. His style began to take shape in the music programs of Joliet, Illinois. As a prominent figure in the Joliet Central High School marching band program, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Millikin University. With numerous albums under his belt, Maxwell has continuously refined his musical composition skills. His musical style is notably influenced by his adept saxophone playing on complex compositions. It’s clear that this album is aimed at a discerning audience. While mastering the intricacies of jazz, Shawn Maxwell delivers a work that calls for reflection and attentive listening.

To understand this artist’s journey, one must go back to 2014. “Shawn Maxwell’s Alliance” (Chicago Sessions, 2014) was the eponymous album of one of his projects. Comprising ten musicians including vocals, two French horns, two double basses, and a vibraphone, they garnered praise from jazz critics (another Downbeat “Editor’s Choice”) and appeared on several “best of the year” lists. The music was so unique that diverse publications like Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange took notice, stating, “Not exactly the kind of group you’re likely to hear about often, making it very appealing to progressive ears.”

In the same year, Alliance released an EP, “Bridge” (Chicago Sessions, 2014), which further developed the group’s sound. “A short album brimming with rich musical ideas, colorful passages, and unique musical structures,” said Dan Bilawky (

“These days, Shawn Maxwell sounds like Shawn Maxwell, and that’s a great thing…” – Paul Abella, Chicago Jazz Magazine

Indeed, Shawn Maxwell’s music is a language, a theatrical composition that changes from track to track. When I think of the title of this album, “J Town Suite,” I’m reminded of the book “Les Murailles de Samaris” by Peeter & Schuiten, or perhaps another of their works in the “Les Cites Obscures” series. Maxwell opens pathways that lead to both intellectual exploration and reflection.

If you’re not familiar with this artist yet, it’s time to take notice. His unique approach to music is an exciting proposition for music enthusiasts. There’s much to explore here, and if you allow yourself to be captivated by his compositions, you’ll find yourself returning to them like revisiting a fine glass of Mercurey at a wine tasting. The feast is not just in the words; it resonates in every note of this album.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 6th 2024

Follow PARIS-MOVE on X


To buy this album