In a time when we are all complaining about the copious number of vocal albums that are sprouting like wild mushrooms, with every other jazz release seemingly from yet another ‘great new talent’, it is perhaps difficult not to allow a little indifference to appear now and again. But hey, when I pulled this disc out of the jiffy bag I noticed Anita’s name on the front cover, and yes…this should be worth a listen, and another, and another…
I guess that for all the young pretenders out there the buzz of adrenalin from their first CD release has not yet worn off, and the thought of the follow up is a long way away, but who was it that said ‘a musician is only as good as their latest release’? A slightly simplistic and fickle point of view maybe, but one that does that carry a certain amount of weight, and something that Anita Wardell has circumnavigated in fine style. As good as her previous album ‘Until The Stars Fade’ was, this latest release is better, and marks another step forward for a singer whose star is a long way from fading, and if there is any justice should be ascending rapidly.
The only survivor from the previous album is pianist Robin Aspland, and if he was a tower of strength then, he has carried this trait through their work together in the intervening years between the recordings; at every turn he has a deft touch and just the right aside when required, and positively eats up any solo opportunities he is offered.
The real master stroke, however, was the pairing of Wardell with Benn Clatworthy, and it is quite incredulous how quickly they have developed this level of rapport. Clatworthy turns in some fine flute on the title cut and ‘I’m A Fool To Want You’, but it is his tenor paying that really does it for me, with his tone, often softly spoken that seems to caress a melody in such a delightful way. And what of the lady herself? Well she just gets better with each outing. Never straining for effect, but allowing the song to breathe, Anita’s voice just gets stronger and more personal. She really makes the music work for her, rather than having to forcibly impose her own personality on the music.
The album has a strong ballad feel to it, and shows another side of Wardell’s musical talents, although she does up the ante significantly on the up tempo closer ‘Falling In Love With Love, on which she scats superbly, as is her wont. A tremendous finale for a tremendous album.
Clatworthy is a London native who divides his time between the U.K and Los Angeles. He showcased from the start as he opens the first cut, “If You Never come To Me,” with a flute introduction. Wardell pays respect to the melody by singing it without extraneous inflections. She has a warm attractive alto sound that enhances the sultry Jobim Standard.
Wardell sings a solid intro with Clatworthy’s tenor on “Come Rain Or come shine.” The standard is freshened with a bit of re-harmonisation and features a solo by pianist Robin Aspland. “I’ll Be Seeing You” takes an unusual tack for a vocalist’s Cd; most of the piece is played instrumentally. It begins with Clatworthy playing the melody with only a bass accompaniment. Sax and piano solos follow until Wardell comes in with the lyrics for the last chorus. Jazz vocal purists will appreciate that Wardell keeps the scat improvisation to a minimum, saving her sole improv chorus for the last cut “Falling In Love with Love.” The extremely capable Clatworthy and Wardell’s rhythm section handle the bulk of the improvisational duties.
All About Jazz, Aug 2004
Singer Anita Wardell and Saxophonist Benn Clatworthy create a lyrical performance with lovely favourites such as “Come Rain or Come Shine”, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “ Falling in Love with love” and “Spring is Here”. It’s a lovely album and both artists interpret that delicate side of romance that keeps us from getting old. Light and filled with half smiles, the coolness of their interpretation recalls the blasé feeling that has sometimes been called upon by Cole Porter, Billie Holiday and many others.
“I wish you love” summarizes the album’s message. Cool and dry, the slow, deliberate arrangement pairs Clatworthy’s grisly tenor with Wardell’s frank confession. Bon Voyage. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Have a nice life. It’s that kind of message. “But most of all, when snowflakes fall, I wish you love.” The song has had its effect for many decades. Here, the interpretation goes a little farther to the side of dry wit. Similarly, “I get Along Without You Very Well” places the quintet in another cool situation, where feelings have been aired and decisions have been made.
Clatworthy’s gritty tenor speaks out with the hoarseness of a human voice that has been through hard times. Wardell adds a frail interpretation that implies hurt.
With Piano, bass and drums however, the pair brings everything together and proves to the world that it’s okay. Tomorrow is another day. Jobim’s bossanova, “If You Never Come To Me, moves slowly and comfortably. Clatworthy’s flute lends a beautiful caress to the arrangement.
Wardell too, is at her best with this little bit of magic. It’s a song about questioning: wondering what the future holds. We’re all placed in such situations from time to time. Wardell and Clatworthy give us a full hour of reflection; during which we are able to look at life’s trials from afar, while sitting with them in good company.
LA Jazz Scene, Aug 2004
The joy of this excellent set comes from the complete unanimity of style and approach not only between singer and saxophonist, but among all six performers involved. They sound so at home in one another’s company and so happy with what they’re doing, that the music has a kind of glow about it. Anita Wardell, who has a beautiful unaffected voice and a superb ear, is often rightly praised for her clever scat singing, but the emphasis here is on interpreting classic songs like “Spring Is Here” which she does equally well. Clatworthy’s saxophone and flute turn each piece into a finely judged dialogue. Robin Aspland, proving yet again that he is one of the best piano accompanists around, leads an excellent rhythm section completed by Paul morgan and Martin Drew.
The Observer, April 2004
Wardell and Clatworthy’s was a chance encounter when the singer sat in at one of the visiting saxophonist’s gigs. It felt good then, apparently and that happy situation clearly continued in the studio. The two chose 10 aspiring or established standards to work on, brought in a superior rhythm section and it’s the measure of their achievement that the intensity of these performances soon puts other versions into the shade.
Following her arrival here from Australia, Wardell has paid her dues, as they say and matured as an artist of substance.
She has confidence and knows how to place her personality at the service of a lyric, as on Jobim’s “If you Never Come to Me” with Clatworthy’s flute and Asplands pristine piano or the lovely “ I Wish you Love”, taken slow complete with verse, Wardell’s poised vocal bolstered by Morgan’s imposing bass line. She’s good at combining with a horn, as on the swingy “ Come Rain Or Come Shine” where she sings a harmonised riff with the saxophone before Aspland’s impeccable solo. As Jack Massarik points out in his note Wardell has learned to respect her voice, letting it breathe, never pushing it to extremes and much the same can be said for Clatworthy’s tenor. He has a pleasing sound too, Coltraneish at times, his helping hand and that of the others, turning this into an album of memorable quality.
Jazzwise, June 2004
The Sultry, enticing tones of Anita Wardell, the craft and guile of saxophonist/flautist Benn Clatworthy and the likes of Robin Aspland, Martin Drew and Paul Morgan as a more than able backing band. As you’d expect this is another top–drawer outing for the effervescent Wardell whose workings of these standards and lesser-known compositions are always a delight. For a woman who has seemingly been bypassed by the major label scrum on anything female and Jazz, Wardell shows here that after all the kerfuffle has died down she will still be here offering her own highly personal yet totally accessible brand of swinging jazz. By the way, Clatworthy is wonderful throughout, the perfect host always willing to share the limelight with his admiring guests.
Jazz Review, July 2004