Another local bandleader, Shawn Maxwell, is back with a new album and a new, smaller outfit. "Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow" doesn't have any trouble establishing an identity apart from 2014's ten-member "Shawn Maxwell's Alliance;" where the earlier album was more of a richly textured ensemble outing, here we've got a stripped-down program designed to show off the chops of its powerhouse players.
"Embraceable Excuses" is a bold, jazz-funk declaration over a single chord; the insistent repetition of that single root allows the various members of the ensemble to go whirligigging all over it, in bravura runs and improvisations. Special hosannahs to Matt Nelson on Wurlitzer, Victor Garcia on trumpet and Maxwell himself on sax.
"Work In Progress" sounds like anything but. The tune is a sly, back alley creeper that bassist Junius Paul packs up in his case and just carries away. His solo is so deftly seductive that when he pauses to hang on a note, you don't breathe; he's got your whole respiratory system in synch with his axe. Maxwell comes running after him hard, and some of the wailing he delivers has that slicing-through-the-cerebral-cortex quality that momentarily makes gravity seem like not so much a law as a suggestion.
"Inside Back" takes on a more loungy feel with a luxe intro from Maxwell, Garcia and pianist Matt Nelson. But it quickly turns its 5/4 tempo to good use, piling up a series of intermittent ascending progressions that, in a real lounge, would probably induce every patron to turn his or her head in an excuse-me-we're-trying-to-talk-here kind of way. But the conversation between the band members is far more scintillating than anything you might have to say, with Maxwell in particular proclaiming ecstatically while Nelson unspools yards of tonal glory beneath him.
The album ends with a little free-for-all called "Bye For Now," where everyone beats, blows or bangs in his own idiosyncratic manner. It's the sound of sheer anarchy - what Brian O'Hern and the Model Citizens slyly pretend at. I'm not sure about that title, though; if Shawn Maxwell keeps true to form, his next album will be a whole 'nother thing with a whole new crew; which would make this final cut more appropriately "Bye Forever." But in the meantime we can say "Hello again" to this one, by going right back to the first track and starting over.