Shawn Purcell’s “Symmetricity” shows off well-honed style


Guitarist Shawn Purcell’s first album as a leader, “Symmetricity” is comprised of nine originals and one standard. Purcell has a long history of playing in military jazz bands and performing with notable jazz performers.

“Symmetricity” is full of confident improvisational moves and interesting chords. In addition, the melding of the guitar work with the rest of the soundscape shows Purcell’s abilities as an arranger. “Symmetricity” will be available Sept. 6, 2019. One track that shouldn’t be missed on the album is “Steady Comin’ at Ya.”

About Shawn Purcell

Purcell is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Now located in the Washington, D.C. area, Purcell works as an educator, arranger, composer and guitarist. He has worked with some of the most influential names in jazz, including Terrell Stafford, Nicholas Payton, Sean Jones, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, and other performers.

The guitarist has played on some of the most notable stages in America including the Jazz Kitchen, the Jazz Factory, Blues Alley, Smalls and the Blue Wisp, among others. Of the more than 30 recordings Purcell has appeared on, one of them was Grammy Award-winning album, “The Whirl” by Chip McNeil.

In addition to his work as a performer, Purcell also works as an educator. Currently, Purcell is an adjunct professor of jazz studies at George Mason University. Previously, he has worked at Towson University, Middle Tennessee University and Indiana University. Purcell holds a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Arts in Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts. He has also written articles for leading jazz magazines.

In addition, Purcell still performs with the US Navy Band Commodores in Washington, D.C.


“Steady Comin’ at Ya” by Shawn Purcell

The song opens with a vibrant swing of guitar chords. Purcell’s tone is open and clear. “Steady Comin’ at Ya” is a blend of soothing sounds that stem from the guitar and the steady rhythm of the bass in the front of the soundscape. Even though the title might imply a hard-hitting, rap or rock-oriented song, Purcell proves that being “steady” and in listeners’ facesĀ  does not require loud, brash music. Instead, the notes sound as though they are weaving in and around each other. However, the notes stop just short of being hypnotic. They are quick, present and sound as though they were designed for partner dancing. After just a few measures, the tempo slows and the piano takes a more energetic role in the soundscape.

A few minutes in, the piano plays a motif that will remind some listeners of old school blues. The spry notes dance from measure to measure. The tone of the piano is matched by that of the guitar. Both the guitar and the piano receive a showcase. In the meantime, the drums clatter and shimmer as if for dear life. This is especially true toward the end.

“Steady Comin’ at Ya,” as the rest of “Symmetricity,” demonstrates Purcell’s well-honed style. The seamless and straightforward guitar playing marks his work and makes the album a must-hear for jazz fans.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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