Andy Waddell is a true craftsman, a jazz guitarist with a keen ear for both accessible melodies and inventive arrangements. The Los Angeles-based musician lets his creativity soar on his debut album, Sunset to 7. Backed by pianist Matt Politano, bassist Roger Shew, drummer Evan Stone, and tenor saxophonist Tom Catanzaro, Waddell delivers a consistently engaging assortment of smoothly layered yet challenging and unique avant-garde jazz.
The youthful exuberance of this record is among the keys to its success. Waddell’s frenetic performance on “Gone Away” is echoed by Stone’s shuffling drums and Politano’s sparkling piano. Catanzaro’s fiery sax adds to the track’s sweaty atmospherics. This must be a pressure cooker when performed live; in the studio, it already electrifies. Waddell’s soulful rhythms on “Eye 2 Eye” prove that these songs are no mere cerebral exercises; there is a heart pumping beneath the thought-provoking grooves, making its presence known within Waddell’s incandescent playing.
Every member of Waddell’s band is given the opportunity to shine here, and they certainly do. Politano’s piano is on fire during “Answer,” while Shew’s throbbing bass adds weight to “Only One Older Friend.” Vocalist Nancy Sanchez contributes a feminine touch to “Blue Skies” that is definitely welcome. For an initial offering, Sunset to 7 sounds like the polished work of an accomplished veteran.