Lawrence Batley Theatre, 2005

by William Marshall

Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield

Female Jazz singers giving us their take on the Great American Songbook are fairly thick on the ground.

But Anita Wardell is that bit different, not least because of her commitment to bebop and her determination to use her voice as an improvising instrument.

On most of the numbers performed at this Huddersfield Jazz gig she followed her statement of the melody with wordless choruses in which she was not so much improvising new material through the chords, just as a horn player would.

On some of the numbers she sang surreal lyrics to actual jazz solos from horn players like Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges or Ben Webster. This approach was pioneered by the like of Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross and indeed Anita Wardell performed some of their numbers such as Ross’s excellent version of the Art Farmer tune “Farmers Market”.

The repertoire was interesting and unusual and there was one of the best versions of “Willow Weep For Me” that I have heard.

Lee Gibson,
Musician, the Journal of the Musicians’ Union