Trombonist Shawn Bell’s playing has been called “soulful” and “captivatingly quirky.” While Jazz has been the driving force behind Bell’s training and education, he has earned a reputation as a dynamic journeyman, always ready to play the gig at hand. This commitment to making music not bound by the doctrine of a single style or genre has given Bell a unique voice as a musician, composer, and educator.
In 2010, he released his debut album Things Yet Unknown to critical acclaim. The Midwest Record Review noted, “Solid playing and writing, a great tone and a young, untamed spirit all team up to make this a delightfully auspicious debut.” JazzTimes’s website stated, “To find a young trombonist like Shawn with this level of command and virtuosity is amazing.”
Bell’s most recent 2020 release, Trio, featured a departure from traditional Jazz formats and song structures. Instead, Shawn drew on covers by R&B and Rock artists alongside original material that grooves rather than swings. In a review for Jazz Weekly, George Harris stated, “The Team likes to play with dynamics, giving a big one-two punch before digging into a cool groove.” Trio is available on all streaming and download platforms.
In addition to his work as a performer, Shawn also has over ten years of experience as a brass and Jazz instructor. He operates Bell Tone Brass Studio in Omaha, Nebraska and is a sought-after Jazz clinician throughout the region. In addition to his freelance teaching, Shawn has also taught trombone, music theory, and songwriting at Northern Illinois University and Lansing Community College. Bell contributed elements of his approach to leading large Jazz ensembles to the book Teaching Music through Performance in Jazz: Volume 2 (2016). He holds degrees in Jazz Performance from Western Michigan University and Northern Illinois University.
Bell currently holds a position with Omaha Performing Arts as the teaching artist for the nonprofit organization’s Jazz Academy. This program seeks to increase the quality of Jazz education offered in the Omaha region. Since 2018, O-pa’s Jazz Academy has reached over 1,000 students by sponsoring in-school clinics, music educator workshops, and an honor ensemble for middle school Jazz students.