Guitarist Shawn Purcell, who is based in the Washington DC area, worked with the U.S. Air Force's The Airmen Of Note for 15 years and with the US Navy Band Commodores jazz ensemble. He has appeared on over 30 recordings including with singer Darden Purcell, tenor-saxophonist Chip McNeill and trombonist Ben Patterson. In 2019 he led his first album, Symmetricity, and the recent 180 (his debut for the Origin label) proves to be a giant step forward.
For this consistently stimulating project which is mostly comprised of his originals, the guitarist leads a trio with organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Jason Tiemann. Darden Purcell makes three guest appearances while trombonist Patterson helps out on "Soul Blue."
From the start of the opening "Cat And Mouse," it is obvious that Shawn Purcell has his own sound on guitar. He plays with great passion on this uptempo romp and there are spots for Bianchi's fluent organ and drummer Tiemann, making this an excellent introduction to the trio. There is plenty of variety to be heard throughout this set as is displayed on the augmented and extended blues "180" and the adventurous "Fond Illusion"; the latter has Purcell playing quite freely and with intensity over a groove.
Darden Purcell contributes some warm and attracting singing to the standard "A Time For Love" before the trio digs into the cooking "ChickaD" which is a close relative of Miles Davis' "Half Nelson." "A Long Stroll" has a complex melody that almost sounds like someone talking, a mood and feeling that is continued throughout the organ and guitar solos. One of the set's high points is the boppish but modern "Hoodang" which builds in momentum and excitement as it evolves. A contrast is offered on "LTG (Little Tori Girl"), a melodic and thoughtful piece that one could imagine being given lyrics. The rewarding set concludes with the funky "Window Games" (which contains some colorful drum breaks), the struttin' medium-tempo blues "Soul Blue," and the heated "Search And Destroy."
There are no slow moments on 180 or throwaway tunes, and the trio never coasts. Shawn Purcell is consistently inventive while altering his sound and approach depending on the song, always serving the music With Bianchi contributing many colorful solos and the supportive Tiemann keeping the momentum flowing, 180 is an update on the classic organ trio. The result is an enjoyable outing that is heartily recommended.