b. 1961, Guildford, Surrey, England. When Wardell was 12 years old, she and her family emigrated to Australia, where in due time she completed a four-year performance course in jazz and improvised music at Adelaide University. She began singing professionally and appeared at jazz festivals with Richie Cole and with James Morrison and Don Burrows, with whom she later sang on tracks on two albums. In 1989 she returned to the UK where she studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. While there she was heard by Norma Winstone who declared, ‘She sings without affectation, and with clarity of voice, which I love.’ In the early 90s Wardell worked extensively in Europe and also visited the USA, singing at festivals at San José, Edinburgh and in Finland. She formed a close working relationship with John Stevens, performing drums/voice duos and they recorded together in 1994. Her debut album under her own name, in 1995, was an exceptional set of duets with pianist Liam Noble.
A rich, expressive and agile voice allows Wardell to excel not only with the great ballad standards, which she sings with remarkable expressiveness, but also with bop classics. The guru of contemporary jazz singers, Mark Murphy, has extolled the quality of her bop singing, stating that it is ‘always so clear and accurate in its linearism’. Wardell also makes considerable use of scat singing in her programming and while many young singers launch into scat with only a faint notion of its strengths and limitations, she is an exceptionally gifted user of the form.