A feisty gal make no mistake, Australian singer Anita Wardell certainly knows how to make her presence felt. As a scat merchant Wardell is certainly a real handful (or earful if you like)on this quartet date of well- known standards yet is able to transform herself into a balladeer seemingly at will. A solid band behind her-in Aspland, Brown and Calderazzo a match indeed – Wardell sets the tone on the opening “Get Out Of town” with a firebrand approach and gutsy, no-messing delivery. Subtlety takes a back seat here as the emphasis is on swing not swoon. With Calderazzo in the backline there is no room for gentle thought, as driven along at a rollicking pace Wardell doesn’t skip a beat. That she comes through such an encounter relatively unscathed is testament not only to a rock – solid technique but a genuine desire to explore all rhythmical possibilities.
On ” With A Song In My Heart” and “You’re Looking at Me” the pace is slowed altogether and Wardell has a chance to catch breath. “My shining Hour” is given the whole treatment with some fine comping from Aspland, who incidentally plays the perfect foil to Wardell throughout- driving and robust, tender and persuasive. She can certainly scat and does so with aplomb when in the mood, which thankfully doesn’t dominate proceedings altogether. It makes a change to hear a female vocalist in cahoots with a quartet rather than upfront of some hastily constructed big band. Wardell relishes the intimacy and somehow manages to bridle her enthusiasm without losing any impact.
Jazz Review, July 2002
Anita Wardell is one of England’s best-kept secrets, but with talent like hers she won’t be a secret for much longer. Possessing a natural swing and scatting ability like Kitty Margolis but with the sensuality of Julie London, Wardell is the complete jazz singer. Her sidemen are extremely gifted soloists in their own rights, and hearing this album should make North American jazz fans with the wherewithal want to hop the next plane to Ronnie Scott’s when Wardell’s quartet plays there the next time.
Until the Stars Fade contains only standards, but they are all performed with new interpretations that make the tunes sound as fresh as the day they were composed. The latin groove is a particularly nice touch to Bobby Troup’s tragically-neglected classic “You’re Looking at Me.” Nothing short of amazing is the complete reharmonization of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “People Will Say We’re in Love.” In the hands of Wardell and company the tune sounds as though it were composed by Herbie Hancock or McCoy Tyner.
Wardell also knows how to sing a torch song, and her rendition of “For All We Know” is particularly lugubrious and poignant. But when it comes to scatting, Wardell is right up there with Kurt Elling and Mark Murphy. Her performances of “Devil May Care” (most recently recorded by Diana Krall), “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “My Shining Hour” are masterpieces of vocal improvisation. Anita Wardell is an amazing talent whose artistry deserves much wider recognition. Until the Stars Fade is a flawless recording of a great jazz singer at the top of her game.
All About Jazz
Although not as light and girlish as Blossom Dearie, United Kingdom vocalist Anita Wardell has the same snappy, flawless young damsel delivery that one hears in Dearie. Wardell also has that intuitive feel for framing each song to bring out the best it has, whether the appropriate mood be cheerful and spirited swinging or sophisticated, cultivated elegance. These contrasting stylistic facilities are evident on an upbeat “My Shining Hour” and then on a breathless, expressive rendition of Bobby Troup’s rarely played, “You’re Looking at Me”. Wardell pretty much sticks with familiar standards for this her second album manifesting once again that these chestnuts of American Popular Song offer many interpretive opportunities which Wardell takes full advantage of. She fools around with the beat on “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” lagging a bit behind the piano of Robin Aspland before improvising on the melody line for the second chorus, as she segues into a discreet scat.
On “Love for Sale” she retains the beguine accompaniments that Cole Porter wrote into many of his tunes. She is helped along by some imaginative improvisational piano by Aspland and someone excitable drumming by Mark Taylor. Her youngish sounding voice adds a dash of sensuality to the ingredients of this Porter classic. This tune is just one example of the amount of time the members of Wardell’s quartet are given throughout this session to stretch out. So this CD while technically falls into the vocal jazz category, it has an abundance of outstanding instrumental work as well adding to the attractiveness of this fine effort. Wardell has a very appealing personal style of singing which sets her a bit apart from most on today’s scene.
This is Anita Wardell’s third album, her first for the increasingly impressive Symbol Records.
Anita explains in the sleeve notes that the CD gets it’s title from the “rarely sung second set of lyrics in ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein”, and it is this approach to standards, to find new meaning and something fresh, that typifies this set.
Wardell has a clear and warm voice that draws the ear, and a no nonsense delivery that brings out the full sentiment in everything she sings, without being over sentimental. Check out the innocently swinging ‘I’ve never been in Love Before’ and the passionate and heartfelt ‘For All We know’ which is perhaps the highlight of the album.
She also likes to improvise on the changes and scats to good effect on the previously mentioned ‘Love’, the up tempo ‘Get out of Town’ and the decidedly slower ‘Make Someone Happy’. Resisting the need to go far out to make her point with a sure sense of timing and rhythm, as on the openly defiant ‘Devil May Care’ she is at once adventurous and swinging, and ready to react with the band in an exhilarating manner.
The band are just about as tight as they can get, with the arrangements being evolved from “sitting around the piano exchanging ideas”. Pianist, Robin Aspland, is a constant delight throughout, with something of interest in all of his solos. Having said this, solos on ‘Love For Sale’, ‘People Will Say That We’re In Love’ and his exquisite touch on ‘Make Someone Happy’ are particularly memorable. Bassist Jeremy Brown is becoming a much in-demand player in many different contexts, and makes sound solo contributions to ‘Get Out Of Town’ and ‘Devil May Care’.
Anita uses two different drummers on the session with New York based Brit Mark Taylor swinging mightily on his four appearances, and UK based New Yorker Gene Calderazzo once again demonstrates the imaginative and creative drive he brings to any musical situation he finds himself. Wardell has produced a swinging, enjoyable and most importantly, a memorable disc. No mean feat in an increasingly competitive market place with the ladies battling it out.