Bill Warfield & The Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:3 mins read

Bill Warfield & The Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra
featuring Nicole Henry

The Iridium, NYC, April 19, 2016

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Bill-Warfield-Cabaret-Scenes-Magzine_212Bill Warfield—trumpet player, arranger and composer—likes variety. With The Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra, Warfield continues to explore new sounds with an eclectic mix of jazz, blues and funk. The works range from Dr. Billy Taylor to The Muppets to Snarky Puppy. The band’s opener, the jazz-blues standard “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” arranged by Warfield, was true to its slow-tempo roots, but wasn’t a good choice to get an audience energized. The next song, a bop-type homage to Miles Davis, “Mad Dog 245” (composed by Warfield), elevated the mood. It was later with a “rearranged” “Thing of Gold” that the band showcased itself with full, effective force and blazing sound. The eleven top-shelf musicians are evenly divided between rhythm and brass, plus Prague-based wizard Jakub Zomer at the Hammond B3 organ. Zomer’s full-out, swinging provided an elevated textural level to the band’s big, bright, clean tonality.

Singer Nicole Henry was the featured artist of the evening, offering a wide range of material, from the sweet “The Rainbow Connection” and the pop “What the World Needs Now Is Love” to the soulful “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” Henry’s voice is clear and pleasant. She’s immensely likable, but she seems almost too dainty for the material—too hesitant to break out and let loose. She flirted with abandon on “Respect,” and was much more successful with letting go on “First Time on the Ferris Wheel.” (Henry’s role model is Nancy Wilson, and Wilson’s repertoire seems to be a comfort zone for her.) When Henry truly finds her core she’s going to be a real contender among jazz singers. She and the band closed with an “in memoriam” number, “Smile.” It was beautifully rendered. But, as with the opener, better choices could have been made for getting an audience initially pumped up, and sending folks out into the night on an upbeat note.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.