…this album is a gem and thoroughly recommended to all those who like a good story told by master storytellers.

Self Release – Available from anitawardell.com

Anita Wardell (voice); Dave McEvoy (piano)

Recorded 10 & 11 May, 2022

Vocalist Anita Wardell is an internationally renowned recording artist who has performed regularly in all corners of the globe. Born in the UK but moving to Australia as a child, with a return trip years later to study at the Guildhall of Music in London. Since then, she has divided her time between the UK and Australia and trips to the United States to perform. After four years away teaching in Adelaide, Anita has made a return to the UK but not before recording this delightful duet album with pianist Dave McEvoy.

Recorded at Wizard Tone Studios in Adelaide, the spark and empathy between the two is readily apparent and can be heard in their superb reading of standards, contemporary songs and a couple of originals. The programme is therefore quite varied, but Wardell and McEvoy bring a unique take on all the songs as if making them their own.

Known and widely admired for her command of scat and vocalese, Wardell dares to open the album with a splendid ‘Digits’ written by Clark Terry. Eschewing the lyrics, the vocalist delivers a vibrant and swinging performance with McEvoy hot on her heels. The melody line just flows, and Anita’s scat solo is breathtaking.

How you follow that is a conundrum, but one that the duo solves by playing something completely different on the original and jointly composed ‘I Hear Your Song’ a quiet and reflective song which is dedicated to the much-missed Tina May, followed by the title track by Fred Hersch with lyrics by Norma Winstone. These two pieces set a different tone for the remainder of the album but by now it is clear that Wardell and McEvoy can take the music wherever they wish.

Anita’s vocals are warm and have vibrancy and depth to them that is captivating, and ideally suited to this sparse setting. Dave McEvoy’s accompaniment is masterful, and he is able to provide exactly what Wardell needs to wring every last nuance and meaning out of the lyrics. When he does solo, it is with a lyricism and economy that deepens and enhances the song.

The lyric is delivered in a wistful manner on ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly’ and there is a quaint humour in Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s ‘I’ll String Along With You’, but again it a couple of originals that catch the ear. Anita’s ‘Rewind’ is a beautiful song that is tinged with regret and features delicate use of backing vocals that are so cleverly worked into the arrangement in a very subtle and effective manner; and this is matched by McEvoy’s exquisite ‘I Want Still’. A fragile and vulnerable piece of music that says a lot.

Over the course of her career Anita Wardell has proved that she is incapable of making a bad or indifferent album, and the duo conclude this magnificent recording with Lionel Bart’s ‘Where Is Love?’ and Kern and Hammerstein’s ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man’.

All in all, this album is a gem and thoroughly recommended to all those who like a good story told by master storytellers.