About the Artists
To a remarkable degree, Shawn Maxwell has the urge—a quality fundamental to those who create improvised music on a nightly basis. In this way, it is not enough to simply create, but the need to innovate that guides each note. His art lies in addressing the ordinary modalities of life in an extraordinary way, placing notes in their most complimentary places with precision and enthusiasm. Of course, there’s the way he plays. Maxwell’s style was built around swelling harmonic runs while painting complex melodies across an expansive canvas. Each harmony he creates is purposeful in form as well as function.
By all accounts, Shawn Maxwell formed his style early on the tough and tumultuous streets of Joliet, Illinois. From the time a 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 conquer the Windy City. With equal parts genius and toil, Maxwell has become one the preeminent performers in the Chicago jazz landscape. His multi-instrumental talents have been lauded by fellow musicians and critics alike.
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 Chicago and the world, perhaps even a venue near you.
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.
After several years of hearing his dad playing the guitar around the house and of being enthralled with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the virtuosic piano stylings of the late Johnny Costa on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Matt Nelson asked his parents for piano lessons at the age of 5. It was only a year later when he met lifelong friend and musical companion, future drummer and audio engineer, Matt Nischan. As kids, the two Matts spent hours jamming, attempting to pick out melodies and beats from current rock and pop songs and various Nintendo games by ear.
At age 13, Nelson hit an impasse with his piano studies and began studying jazz with pianist Tara Singer. It was with Singer that Nelson was introduced to the basics of the jazz language, as well as being introduced to Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, an extremely influential record for Nelson. Nelson continued studying with Singer through the end of his high school years. While in high school, Nelson also spent time studying drums and percussion, including vibraphone and marimba.
Directly after high school, Nelson and Nischan entered a long period of creativity and musical exploration. Both decided to attend the College of Lake County before leaving town for a university, and Nischan had purchased a home digital recording rig. The pair spent months writing and recording music at Nelson’s house; several of the tunes on Nostalgiamaniac were conceptualized at this time. Finally, in 2003, Nelson moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College Chicago. It was there where he met a core group of like-minded young musicians, some he has been collaborating with ever since (Aaron Koppel, Brad Dickert, Robbie Tucker, Matthew Santos, Sarah Marie Young). Nelson studied jazz piano and arranging at Columbia, developing musical skills and relationships that continue to be fruitful for Nelson’s career.
Stacy McMichael is one of the premier bassists in Chicago today. Equally proficient on upright bass and electric bass, Stacy performs comfortably within a broad range of genres and styles. As an active professional bassist, Ms. McMichael has played with hundreds of artists in countless settings.
Ms. McMichael received her Masters degree (Jazz Bass performance & pedagogy) from the prestigious University of Miami Jazz School and her Bachelors degree (Double Bass performance) from the University of Nebraska - Omaha. Stacy is Adjunct faculty at Saint Xavier University, Olivet Nazarene University.
Phillip Beale, a native of Chicago Illinois began his musical career at the early of 2 years old in his parents’ church choir. With the encouragement of his musical grandfather, Phillip would later go on to study Suzuki piano and violin. In high school, he was active in his schools jazz band and marching band, as well as Drum Corps. He was a member of the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle corps as well as Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps. In 2001, while marching with the Madison Scouts, he competed in the solo and ensemble competition where he won best multiple percussion solo with a score of 99.3. As a result, Beale was featured in the January and August 2002 issues of Modern Drummer Magazine. He was also on the instructional staff of the Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps in 2005. ?Phillip attended Northern Illinois University where he majored in Percussion Performance/Jazz Studies under Professor Robert Chappell, Associate Dean Richard Holly, and Professor Ronald Carter. Some of the artists Phillip has had the opportunity to tour and record with are: Ray J., Wayne Brady, Euge Groove, Bobby Brown, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Michael Lington, Nikki Jane, Panoramic, Liam Teague, Eddie Henderson, Conrad Herwig Donald Harrison, Orbert Davis, Willie Pickens, George Duke, Victor Mendoza, Michael Spiro. His music was also featured in the motion picture “With or Without You” in 2003. He is also a member of the group Panoramic who performed at the 2003 & 2007 PAS convention with guest artist Dane Richardson and Michael Spiro. As a result of these performances, Beale has been able to travel and perform in such places as Taiwan, Italy, Trinidad, Japan, St. Lucia, Canada and Peru, as well as various venues throughout the U.S. As an educator, Phillip has been fortunate enough to work with or clinic some of the top drumlines and jazz ensembles around the country. Some of them include the Northern Illinois University Marching Band, Lemont HS, Waubonsie Valley HS, Normal West HS, Mira Costa HS (CA) and El Camino Real HS (CA). Phillip has a very active private lesson studio as well.