Anita Wardell Trio - Octave Jazz Bar, 16 August 2007

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On Thursday, August 16th I had a revelation. A good fifteen minutes before her trio started rompin’, Anita Wardell looked unflappable. Cramped on a chair in a remote corner behind the Octave’s unfathomable carpeted stage, the great UK-born be-bop vocalist was artlessly flipping over her music sheets like a conscientious student swotting for an impending exam. Even Lee Morgan, blowing ‘Moanin’’ from the venue’s deafening speakers, did not burst her impenetrable bubble of concentration. Suddenly in walked serene pianist Robin Aspland, soon followed by composed bassist Jeremy Brown; Anita reconnected with the world around her. Anita Wardell Trio - Octave Jazz Bar, 16 August 2007
After abandoning her chair to join them on stage, she smoothly started the set, eyes closed - a breeze of rare sincerity instantly blew me away. Further tackling the Cole Porter repertoire, the trio unexpectedly embarked the audience on an energetic version of ‘Billy’s Bounce’, while Anita literally suspended time. Dexterously tapping one finger after the other against the valves of a ghostly cornet, she playfully strolled her way ad lib through the chords with divine grace. I then realised that her renowned, unique artistry not so much lay in her amazingly precise, subtle, ingenious technique as in her remarkable ability to simply be herself.

In the second and last set, bare-footed, Anita’s transparent vulnerability further radiated through her moving interpretation of ‘Willow Weep For Me!’. Although putting on a show is definitely nothing like her, Anita Wardell eventually got the stage rompin’ on a closing jam session with her special guests, among whom versatile virtuoso pianist Barry Green. More than just a world-class, memorable gig, I’ve experienced what sets apart the good artists from the great under the spotlights. Being excellent is not enough. And Anita Wardell clearly revealed that shining with humility is the unmistakable token of the great.

Aurore Mary