The album title is certainly apt. If there were one word that could describe Andy Waddell’s guitar playing, it would be Alive. Waddell doesn’t restrict himself to jazz conventions. His compositions balance the restlessness of his imagination with a killer instinct for melody. It’s a dangerous combination, one that finds the balance between inventiveness and accessibility. There is the potential for a mainstream crossover in Alive, even more than his previous work.
Josh Nelson’s hauntingly beautiful piano intro gives the title cut an immediate hook; it draws the listener in and refuses to let go. There is definitely a life-affirming feeling emanating from the sunshine sparkle of Waddell’s guitar. He delivers a clean, crisply embellished performance, simultaneously captivating and relaxing the ears. Nelson’s piano picks up the tempo while Waddell delivers a scorching jam. It is indeed “Alive.”
Another track wherein Waddell and Nelson generate a special kind of magic is “Wonderville.” Waddell’s hypnotic playing is perfectly in synch with Nelson’s mesmerizing piano. However, the album is not a two-man show. Saxophonist Tom Catanzaro, bassist Dan Lutz, and drummer Aaron McLendon significantly add to Waddell’s cinematic vision.
While a number of other jazz guitarists focus on technical precision, Waddell has a poetic ear for composition that distinguishes him from his peers. “A New Day” and “Light Night” convey emotions that don’t require words; they are stunningly beautiful.