Live, 2006

by Jack Massarik


Baffling though they often are, this years BBC Jazz awards got something right by handing this singer a “Best Of Jazz” award for performing in a classic jazz style. Though seldom heard on BBC airwaves, Anita Wardell is an exceptional talent.

Whereas most singer bluff their way through wordless bars without making any sense, Australian -reared, Guildford -born Anita is a true scat-singer. She thinks like a trumpeter or saxophonist, creating shapely lines to suit the song’s chord structure.

Her latest album “Noted”(Specific Jazz), finds her writing “vocalese” lyrics based on instrumental performances that many jazz fans know by heart. Moanin’ for instance, came note -for- note from Lee Morgan’s memorable trumpet solo on the Jazz Messengers’ Blue Note album. Urged on by Robin Aspland’s bluesy chord work and Alex Garnett’s feisty alto and tenor saxes, Wardell’s words and sounds fitted the lines flawlessly.

Similar treatments of Autumn leaves(using Cannonball Adderley’s alto solo from the album Somethin’ else), Blues on the corner(McCoy Tyner), What If I Don’t (Herbie Hancock) and Lonely Woman (Horace Silver) were sung with such expertise that Garnett blew her a respectful kiss.

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