Tag Archives: Otis Spann

David Maxwell


“See, I’ve always had this identity crisis, whether or not I was a jazz or blues musician.”











For decades Boston blues fans could sleep easy knowing that David Maxwell was on the scene. From the 1970s until February 15, 2015 – when Maxwell died at age 71 from prostate cancer – his presence supplied comfort, both musical and psychic. He was as good a blues pianist as anyone could hope to find anywhere and Boston had him. He was a constant presence, at least when he wasn’t on the road backing up the likes of Freddie King, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Rush, James Cotton and many others over the years.

Maxwell was so adept as a sideman that he did not get around to putting out “Maximum Blues Piano,” his first album as a leader, until 1997. It was the perfect occasion for me to write a long overdue story on him. We met at David’s, a now-shuttered restaurant on Stuart Street in Boston’s theater district. I had gotten to know Maxwell about five years earlier while working on a story about the life and legacy of the late Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson of Canned Heat, an Arlington, Mass. native who helped set Maxwell on his musical path when they were both in high school. When we sat down for lunch, Maxwell, who grew up a town over from Arlington in Lexington, recalled how he first met Wilson through a drummer they both knew. Soon after they started jamming together, while also listening to and seeking out their blues heroes.

When the conversation turned to Maxwell’s solo recording debut, he surprised me. The “Maximum Blues” pianist was highly ambivalent about wearing the “blues” label. He loved the blues, no question, but he did not want the blues to define him. He had a deep interest jazz, as well as Indian, Arabic and African music; even as he was releasing his first blues album, he already was thinking ahead to what he wanted to explore on future recordings, which he notably did on his world fusion album “Blues in Other Colors.” But the blues kept calling and Maxwell’s discography grew to include duet albums with Otis Spann and Louisiana Red and a collection of collaborations with Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Duke Robillard, Kim Wilson and more. A bluesman and seeker until the end.