Scat queen Anita Wardell

Anita Wardell is one of the UK’s top jazz singers but she is often described as a musician – because this scat artist is able to use her voice as an instrument with such precision and agility.

British born Wardell fell in love with music as at an early age, and grew up listening to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and her father’s big band albums by Count Basie and Duke Ellington. 

When she was 12 the family moved to Australia, where Anita’s musical education continued. But the pivotal moment came when she was at college in Adelaide and heard two girls performing in an adjacent room. She asked her instructor what they had been singing. They were scatting, he explained. The young Anita was instantly hooked.

With encouragement from her tutor she went about learning all she could about improvisation drawing inspiration from instrumentalists such as horn players to develop her scatting technique.

Anita studied at the University of Adelaide before pursuing a career performing with the likes of James Morrison, Don Burrows and Sarah Vaughan.

She later studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her abilities have won her a number of awards including the BBC Jazz Award and the Best Vocalist Award at the British Jazz Awards. As well as touring Europe,

Australia and the US and performing at festivals in San at San José, Edinburgh and in Finland, she also holds regular jazz masterclasses.

Anita is also a skilled writer and performer of vocalese, and a sensitive interpreter of standards and jazz originals.
She spoke to iSing about her career and her love of jazz.

iSing: Name and place where you live?

Anita Wardell. I live in London.

iSing: Profession?

Jazz vocalist.

iSing: Age you realised you wanted to be an artist?

12.

iSing: Who has influenced your music and why?

All the greats, but in particular Ella Fitzgerald for the pure joy of singing, Betty Carter for risk taking, Charlie Parker for soulfulness and amazing bebop lines, Miles Davis for space in the music and Jon Hendricks for his inspiring scat and vocalese solos.

iSing: Song most played on your MP3 player? 

Freddie Freeloader from the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue, it is full of absolute gems.

iSing: First gig?

Tivoli Hotel Adelaide Australia in 1982.

iSing: Name dropping (tell us about some of the people you’ve worked with/supported)?

In 1982 I supported Sonny Stitt, guitarist Jack Wilkins, alto sax player Richie Cole and Kenny Washington on drums.

From 1982 to 1984 I worked with multi instrumentalists James Morrison and Don Burrows. I continued to work with James until 1987 and I worked with him again in 2010 with the BBC Big Band in Birmingham. I supported Sarah Vaughan at the Sydney Opera House in 1987 and came to the UK in 1989. When I moved to London I supported the following artists at Ronnie Scotts – James Moody, Curtis Fuller, Joe Lovano, Dave Wekyl, Jo Zawinal, Vincent Herring,and many more. I have sung with Bill Carrothers – wonderful pianist – and with the late great Mark Murphy on many occasions. I have also worked with Sheila Jordan and the fabulous Norma Winstone.

iSing: Who are you listening to now and why?

I’m listening a lot to instrumentalists, people such as Dexter Gordon, JJ Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Jim Hall, Pat Martino and Duke Ellington. I love the way these guys construct their lines in their improvisation , so singable and so locked in. All the elements are there: present- time, feel, rhythm, melody, harmony, swing, soulfulness and authenticity.

iSing: Favourite instrument and why?

The trumpet. I hear the sound of the trumpet in my head when I’m improvising. I think it’s to do with hearing higher pitches.

iSing: What you wish you’d known from the start?

Nail the fundamentals early, I mean really nail them – no holes in your knowledge – then you can enjoy creating.

iSing: How do you prepare for a performance?

I make sure I practice as regularly as possible every day (of course, life gets in the way sometimes). I think consistency helps you to feel more secure and be prepared as much as possible. Then you can be open then to whatever happens on the bandstand. That’s when the fun starts! When I practice I focus on the fundamentals: intervals, arpeggios and agility exercises, singing chord changes, scales, time, feel , melodies, vocal technique and so on. Leave no stone unturned if possible.

iSing: Tell us about your upcoming gigs/projects?

Tour of Italy in April where I will visit Bari and Sicily, tour of Scotland in April and the Twickenham Jazz Festival in July.

Websiteanitawardell.com


 Sign Up

http://www.linehilton.com

iSing founder Line, is passionate about creating a place where singers can gain knowledge, skills, advice and support. Something she wishes she had when she first started. In her private practice she helps pro and semipro singers, artists and voice teachers with their voice, performance, mindset and teacher training. Her speciality areas include Performing Arts Medicine, anatomy, health, technique and mindset. She pulls on a wide range of qualifications, experiences and interests to assist her clients to build and develop the knowledge and skills they require for their craft. She is a member of PAVA, PAMA, the MU and Advisor to Vocology In Practice, and a BAST singing teacher trainer.