Articles & Interviews

Meet Anita Wardell

Article by Thomas Cunniffe, jazzhistoryonline.com

The distance between London and New York is just over 3400 miles, and traveling that distance by air takes about 6 hours. It’s not cheap to fly across the Atlantic (although that may change in the coming months), but it is an essential trip for jazz musicians to make if they want the benefits of worldwide fame. American musicians have long known that European jazz audiences are generally more appreciative than domestic crowds, and European musicians realize that their fame can grow exponentially when heard by the right American ears.

Consider jazz in London. The UK’s capital has a thriving jazz scene, but there are many worthy English jazz musicians who are virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic. For every Cleo Laine or Tubby Hayes that has achieved success in America, there are several worthy musicians who aren’t well-known because they haven’t toured or recorded in the US. One of those worthy musicians is vocalist Anita Wardell.

Best known as an outstanding scat singer, she is also a skilled writer and performer of vocalese, and a sensitive interpreter of standards and jazz originals. She’s collected several awards, including a recent prize for Best Jazz Vocalist from the British Jazz Awards, and her artistry has inspired accolades from fellow singers like Mark Murphy, Roseanna Vitro and Kate McGarry. Yet, up until now, Wardell’s albums have only been available as high-priced imports, and she has made limited trips to the east and west coasts of the United States…

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Chaunteuse Rates More Respect

After her performances at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival in November, singer Anita Wardell was back in Adelaide for Christmas from her London base. An early graduate in jazz studies at the University of Adelaide, Wardell moved to London in 1989 and has since become better known overseas than in Australia.

She has performed at most of the top jazz spots in Britain, appeared on BBC television, and toured Europe often. Unfortunately for local audiences she has had to abandon plans for an Australian tour to return to London for a recording session. With just two local musicians, Deanna Djuric (piano) and Sam Riley (bass), Wardell opened with several jazz standards, interpreting them expressively but mostly staying close to the original melody lines. There was a beautifully moving version, laced with feeling, of the ballad You Go to My Head. By about her fourth piece, It Could Happen to You, she began to move into improvisation, delivering a scat chorus and four-bar exchanges with the piano. Then came a lift-off version of Don't Get Scared by Stan Getz, featuring up-tempo bop phraseology and a display of her advanced capabilities using more complex material…

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Vocal Artistry

Jazz singer Anita Wardell gives the lowdown on scatting, a type of complex vocal acrobatics which involves more than just singing a few lines over the melody. In jazz music, scat and be-bop don't make it as big as its cousins, the big band sound and swing, which have crossed over to the mainstream music.

Featuring a smaller ensemble of musicians, the singing technique, using nonsense syllables ("ba-da-bidi-boop-boop-bi-dap", thus the name be-bop) relies heavily on improvisation and stretches the vocalist's true artistry. One thing for sure, scatting is more than just mimicking the sound of the instruments like the trumpet and the saxophone…

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Interview, 2003

Jazz singing has undergone a real renaissance in the last decade and one of the best of the new jazz singers on the scene is Anita Wardell, a London-based musician who grew up in Australia. She has released a number of outstanding albums, the most recent of which is Until the Stars Fade. Next month, Ms. Wardell has a weeklong gig at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, where she is sharing the stage with Dave Weckl.

We at ZCPortal are very honored that Ms. Wardell took time out of her busy schedule of touring and recording to answer a few of our questions…

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