By Marcia Hunt
The album's cover art. Art by Liam Thornton.
“Starting Point,” the debut album by Purchase jazz bassist Logan Maxwell, was released today. The eight-track album features two of the jazz performance major’s original works and six covers he arranged while in quarantine last summer.
“I didn’t have much motivation to practice so when quarantine hit, I was like ‘Alright, as long as I’m doing something productive, who cares what it is?’” Maxwell said. “Luckily, I was able to get a good amount done over the summer so when school started, I only had a couple more arrangements to do.”
The album marks what he considers to be the starting point of his career as a performer and composer.
“I wrote this album because this is how I sound right now,” he said. “This is a representation of me at this point. When I listen back, I’m learning to love it how it is and I’m very proud of it. What I’m most excited for is that with time, it’s only going to get better from here.”
The first track, aptly named “Starting Point” as well, is the first song Maxwell has ever composed. He wrote the piece at a program at Ravinia Steans Institute, a music institute in Ill.
“When I brought the song in, it sounded like garbage, but I really liked hearing people play it because then I could change it,” he said. “Every day we had a new rehearsal with a different band, and it sounded different every time and it kept getting better. I changed it a lot after that for the album.”
The experience helped him start to harness and analyze his own compositional process, which varies from quick bursts of inspiration to more gradual writing sessions that evolve over time.
“Sometimes, I’ll sit down and in like two seconds the whole tune is done,” he said. “But usually, my process starts with a little seed of an idea and then I have to just plant it and let it grow.”
His other original work, “Tune in D,” is the last song of the album. It is also the one he is the proudest of.
“I think I was able to invoke a lot of nice colors and include a lot of good moments into the song,” he said. “The instrumentation is different on each song but for this one, it was a quartet and my band just nailed it. They played what I was thinking.”
Recording an album that involved 10 other musicians was nothing short of an impressive feat during the pandemic. The team, who recorded the album on campus, had to adhere to COVID guidelines including playing six feet apart, plexiglass shields for the horn players, and masks.
“It honestly didn’t hinder us too much,” Maxwell said. “It was harder to hear each other that way, but I think we did a good job, given the circumstances.”
The majority of the album contains elaborately orchestrated arrangements of songs that really speak to him. By adding his own flair to some of his favorite tunes, he has created both an album and a sound that is thematically his.
“There are songs like “Candy” which is a little walking ballad where I wanted it to feel like it’s bouncy with guitar and piano but no drums,” he said. “My arrangement of the jazz standard “Four Brothers” is written for a specific saxophone section. I just heard different tunes in different ways and that's how I decided how to arrange them.”
The cover he likes the most is his arrangement of “Vivando” by the band Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, a band that is a mixture of different genres including country and jazz.
“I gave the song a funkier kind of vibe,” he said. “I think it’s a really good example of how I take what I know and adapt it to how I hear it, feel it, and want it to sound. They aren’t really jazz, but the thing with Dan Hicks is that everything they do always feels good and it always sounds like they’re having fun when they play. Those are the things I want to grab and put into what I do.”
As he wraps up junior year with the release of his debut album, Maxwell has already begun to reflect on what sound he wants to hear from himself and his band in the future. This upcoming summer, he anticipates recording an album of entirely original works.
And he knows that though he’s come far to reach his “Starting Point,” he never wants to stop growing.
“The time I’ve spent in school and playing this music, I’ve realized that more than I am a bass player, I am a composer, I am a band leader, and I am someone who has things to say musically,” he said. “I don’t have a clear definition of what that is yet and maybe I never will. But this album is the first completed statement in what is hopefully a long career of things that are important to me.”
“Starting Point” is available to listen to on all streaming platforms now.