Anita Wardell: Straight Ahead
Great Britain has long been a fertile ground for singers and an awesome lot they are. Among the better known are Norma Winstone (the grande dame of English jazz singers), Carol Kidd, expatriate American Stacey Kent, Clair Martin and Jan Ponsford. Susannah McCorkle's career also blossomed there. Now we have Australian born Anita Wardell cutting her first album in England for the British record company, 33Jazz. I wish I could report that Ms Wardell belongs in this select group. But based on this recording, she is not quite there yet. The major problem is that she tends to get a bit shrill with the high notes as on "Young and Foolish". But this small problem should not be difficult to correct.
Ms Wardell has a great sense of tempo and good diction which she employs with vigor to a play list of mostly standards along with some songs one doesn't hear too often these days. Ergo, we have "Humpty Dumpty Heart" made famous by Ray Eberle and the Glenn Miller Orchestra with their 1941 recording. Then there's the Frank Sinatra/Tommy Dorsey 1940 hit, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams". The wonderful Claude Thornhill Orchestra made a fine recording of this Jimmy Van Heusen/Jimmy Burke tune. "Jackie" by Hampton Hawes and to which Annie Ross added lyrics and like Ms Ross, Wardell does it vocalese style and quite well. Wardell also engages in some serious scatting on this tune. The remaining tunes are offered in a variety of styles mostly to a medium to up tempo beat. "The Thrill Is Gone" is the designated "let's do something with a Latin beat" tune. Ms Wardell's somewhat coy little girl voice goes nicely with such tunes as "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "It Could Happen to You". But it's her interpretation of "But Not for Me" where Ms Wardell's potential as a top flight vocalist becomes apparent. Kicking off with an interplay between Wardell, bass and drums with the piano coming in after the first chorus along with the introduction of some intelligent, well-placed scatting, this tune is the highlight of the album.
While Ms Wardell possesses all the tools to become a good singer, she is still a work in progress. She's getting there, but has not reached the point where her performances are consistently at a high level.
Tracks:It Could Happen to You; Young and Foolish; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Jackie; The Thrill Is Gone; Humpty Dumpty Heart; I've Got Just About Everything; But Not for Me; We Kiss in a Shadow; Memories of You; East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)
Personnel: Anita Wardell - Vocal; Jason Rebello - Piano; Arnie Somogyi - Bass; Marc Meader-Drums