Shawn Purcell – Symmetricity Review
By: Elberton Cisnero
Guitarist Shawn Purcell has a long list of educational credits but also interestingly enough, he was a member of the military big bands in Washington DC. From 1996-2004, Purcell was the guitarist in the US Air Force premier jazz ensemble, The Airmen of Note. This gave Purcell an opportunity to tour throughout the world including England, Germany, Turkey, Luxembourg, The Azores, Belgium, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Kuwait, and Bahrain. Currently Purcell is the guitarist for the Washington DC based US Navy Band “Commodores” jazz ensemble. Purcell has also appeared on over 30 recordings as a sideman including Grammy Award-winner, Chip McNeill’s, The Whirl; Steve Fidyk’s Posi-Tone Records releases Heads Up! and Allied Forces, Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra’s Prime Time, featuring trumpeter Doc Severinsen, Darden Purcell’s Easy Living and Where the Blue Begins and Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra’s Vital Frequencies featuring saxophonist Chris Potter. Certainly, Purcell has been busy, but now he is focusing on his leader career with his first release Symmetricity on Dallas based label Armored Records. The album lineup includes Shawn Purcell – Guitar; Darden Purcell – Voice (Tracks 4, 10); Luis Hernandez – Tenor Saxophone (Tracks 1, 5, 10); Todd Simon – Piano, Hammond C3 (Track 7), Fender Rhodes (Track 10); Regan Brough – Acoustic Bass; Stockton Helbing – Drums and Cymbals (Tambourine/Flexatone Track 7).
“Symmetricity in the Linear Evolution” is a Purcell original, as the name implies, is based around an intricately symmetrical line. Rhythm changes provide the harmonic undercurrent for the solos as Purcell colors his guitar tone with a midi controller. The tone is interesting and lends to Purcell’s guitar variance and colorization. It is nice to hear the group play a standard set of changes so their harmonic language can be savored. Purcell’s lines are clear and to the point. Hernandez is on fire on this one. Starting off melodic and building from there with the smart support from Simon’s harmonic pushing. Simon’s solo is a fun adventure as the rhythm section settles in on a swinging groove.
“You, and You Alone” is an original waltz by Purcell that opens with Helbing setting the tone in style. The melody is both classic and modern, especially with Hernandez’s colorful fills around the melody. Purcell’s solo pushes the beat just enough to give it energy as his jazz toned slim box speaks from the jazz tradition. Brough’s bass solo is a bouncy exploration of the harmony with Helbing giving excellent brush support. Hernandez spins out interesting colors on this one. The result is a wonderful waltz presentation by a finely tuned quartet.
Purcell’s release Symmetricity might have been a long time in the making but it’s a savory release throughout. His originals are smartly written and sing with interesting harmonic complexities, while still keeping things musical and flowing. Purcell is not just a technician with his playing, he gets into the marrow of a song and puts forth stunning performances to illuminate his idea. Symmetricity is a welcomed edition to the jazz guitar cannon, not to be missed is his supporting cast who all equally add a shimmer to the proceedings.
Release Date: September 6, 2019