Several years ago, I was idly flipping through cable channels when I stumbled upon a documentary called “The Singer, Not The Song”. It was a film about Ella Fitzgerald orignally made for Britain’s Channel 4. It featured several vocalists I knew including Kurt Elling and Dee Dee Bridgewater and one I didn’t know: Anita Wardell. After hearing Wardell scat–without a rhythm section, but with the chord progression clearly outlined in her improvisation–I became an instant fan. I sought out her recordings, and landed a telephone interview with her. Since then, I’ve trumpeted her to every jazz fan who would listen. Now, with her latest album being released in the US, and a proposed concert tour to follow, it seemed like an opportune time to include her in our Profile section. With the cooperation of several musicians and record companies, I’ve been able to include five complete audio selections and one video. I hope you’ll check out this article and Anita’s music. You’ll probably become a fan just like I did.
This month’s book review is of Amy Duncan’s autobiography, “Getting Down To Brass Tacks”. Loyal readers of this site know that Amy was one of our staff writers, and that we excerpted a chapter for the debut of our Sidetracks column. As I note in the review, Amy has been one of my friends for years. Ordinarily, I would not review a friend’s autobiography, but this book taught me many things I did not know about her.
After a few months of dormancy, we have a new Concert Review. The Manhattan Transfer played a rare engagement in Denver, and I was fortunate enough to be there. Founding Tim Hauser was unable to travel due to illness, but his spot was amply filled by a wonderful vocalist named Trist Curless. The Transfer showed that they are still a vibrant part of the vocal jazz scene, and I expect to hear impressive music from Curless in the years to come.
Since we have so much vocal coverage this month, the CD review section features only instrumental music. Specifically, I cover recent recordings by three clarinetists, Dave Bennett, Ken Peplowski and Anat Cohen. This month’s Retro Review examines a newly released set of broadcast recordings by the Modern Jazz Quartet. The album stands up very well on its own, but when compared to other MJQ recordings of the period, it reveals subtle changes in the arrangements and performances.
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