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Jazz singer Anita Wardle swings us a song

PUBLISHED: 19:14 11 April 2012 | UPDATED: 14:33 20 February 2013

Anita Wardell in song

Anita Wardell in song

Female jazz singer Anita Wardell win's the BBC's Best of Jazz award winner and speaks of her inspirations

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2007


Female jazz singer Anita Wardell win's the BBC's Best of Jazz award winner and speaks to Erica Gilbert of her inspirations


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JAZZ SINGER Anita Wardell is in demand. No wonder. Last year she walked off with the BBC's Best of Jazz Award.

"When they announced my name I was absolutely ecstatic," she says. "I was nervous and shaking and excited all at the same time. It's wonderful to win because it's an acknowledgement and a respect for what you do."

Described as one of Britain's most talented jazz singers, Anita's singing is pure and expressive. Her style is a combination of the best aspects from the Holiday-Fitzgerald-Vaughan tradition of jazz singers, into which she mixes her own interpretations. A fine vocalist who likes to incorporate scat and bebop styles, Anita is credited as a fine writer of vocalese, a style of singing which consists of writing and singing lyrics to improvised jazz solos.

Born in Guildford, Anita emigrated to Australia with her family when she was 11. Her love of music was inspired by the old musicals that she saw on TV, which she would record and listen to again and again. She also loved to play her father's big band music collection. "I used to listen to my Dad's albums and learn my repertoire like that," says Anita. "I love everything to do with jazz really. I love the Great American Songbook, things from the wonderful shows, the great songwriters, such as Gershwin and Rogers and Hart and also some of the instrumental jazz players. I like to sing songs from all genres and my favourite style is singing bebop jazz."

Although Anita's love for jazz started at an early age, she had other aspirations for her future. "I came back to Britain in 1986 to audition at RADA because my first ambition was to be an actress," says Anita. "I was only 17 at the time. I think they were looking for somebody with a little bit more life experience and I was very young so I decided to go back to Australia and study more. I went to college and while I was there I showed an interest in jazz and the Great American Songbook. I was urged to look at the jazz courses in the university; once I did I was smitten."

Learning and Inspirations

Anita studied jazz and improvised music at Adelaide University in South Australia as well as working on the Australian jazz circuit and, in 1989, returned to London to continue her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, completing a year-long course in jazz and studio music.

Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae are all singers who have inspired Anita. In 1997, Anita was involved in a TV tribute to jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald as part of the Channel 4 documentary series Jazz Heroes. "I talked about how she influenced me and about her style, her scat singing and her fabulous way with lyrics," Anita says. "The very first jazz singer I ever heard was Ella Fitzgerald; it was the key moment that made me decide to sing jazz."

Touring and teaching

Anita now tours extensively throughout the UK and Europe with her band, which features three highly respected musicians, pianist Robin Aspland, bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Steve Brown. "We've been working together for more than ten years," Anita says. "They're just so supportive and wonderful friends as well as amazing musicians. They contribute to the whole sound of the band; it's not just about playing. They'll say 'why don't you try this?' and suggest things that they think would really work, which is lovely."

Noted is Anita's most recently released album and features ten tracks in the vocalese style, with performances of well-known jazz classics that she has updated using her own unique swinging style.

Also a highly respected and sought-after teacher of vocal improvisation, Anita conducts masterclasses on a regular basis and has taught at various institutions including Guildhall School of Music, Trinity College of Music and Adelaide University, Australia. "The teaching part of my career is very important," she explains. "To impart knowledge and share things with younger and up-and-coming musicians is extremely important."

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