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Moanin’ (Timmons / Hendricks) [7:43] *
Watermelon Man (Hancock) [7:00] *
Autumn Leaves (Kosma / Prevert / Mercer) [7:43] *
Night and Day (Porter) [4:13]
Lonely Woman (Silver) [5:21]
Doodlin’ (Silver / Hendricks) [4:41] *
The Sidewinder (Morgan) [6:00] *
Blues On The Corner (Tyner) [6:48]
Wonderful, Wonderful (Raleigh / Edwards) [4:36]
And What If I Don’t (Hancock) [5:31] *
Anita Wardell (vocals); *Alex Garnett (saxophones); Robin Aspland (piano); Jeremy Brown (bass); Steve Brown (drums)
Rec. Specific Sound, London, January 2006

Though born in England, the jazz vocalist Anita Wardell lived in Australia from the age of eleven; she studied at Adelaide University, pursuing a four year degree in Jazz Performance. It was then that she discovered – and fell in love – with the pleasures of be-bop and scat. Her heroes included the obvious figures such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Chet Baker, as well as vocalists such as Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, Mark Murphy, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae and Betty Carter. She moved to London in 1989, and has made an increasingly prominent reputation, culminating – so far – in the award, in April 2006 of the BBC Best of Jazz prize, presented to her by Cleo Laine.

Any listener who hasn’t had the good fortune to hear her live, or to hear any of her handful of earlier albums, will surely understand, simply from a hearing of this new album, why she should have won such an award. Noted is essentially an exercise – though I use that word without any of the pejorative overtones that it might imply – in vocalese, that is in the singing of lyrics fitted to melodies which were originally improvised by instrumental soloists. The pioneers of the form included King Pleasure, Bas Gonzalez and Eddie Jefferson and their innovations were brought to more popular audiences by the trio of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross as well as by later performers such as Manhattan Transfer and Kurt Elling. Anita Wardell loses nothing by comparison to any of her predecessors.

On Noted she benefits from the assistance of a superb supporting band, especially pianist Robin Aspland, whose work shows, not for the first time, that he is an absolute master of the art of accompanying a vocalist – and he’s a damn good soloist too. As for Wardell’s own work, she sings with wit and creativity and absolute technical command. The opening version of Lee Morgan’s solo from the Art Blakey Jazz Messenger’s version of Bobby Timmons’ ‘Moanin’’ is rich in melodic swoops and sudden leaps of pitch and the virtuosity displayed here sets a standard maintained almost throughout the album. Other highlights include a version of Cannonball Adderley’s magisterial solo on ‘Autumn Leaves’, from his album Something Else and an amusing interpretation of Horace Silver’s ‘Doodlin’’. All the material, indeed, is taken from classic Blue Note Albums of the 1950s and 60s – giving us one of the several, punning meanings of the album’s title. All in all, this is one of the best of recent vocal albums in a period that has seen something of a renaissance in jazz vocalism.

Glyn Pursglove

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