CD review

Bill Warfield and the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra – “Smile”

Bill Warfield and the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra – Smile
(Planet Arts Network. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Seasoned and skilled NYC trumpeter and composer/arranger Bill Warfield, has just released Smile featuring the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra, an 11-piece firebrand of an ensemble that has the power of a full big band. This dish of “drastic plastic” fires on all cylindrical objects on ’70s and ’80s hits along with two Warfield pieces thrown in for good measure(s).

Baltimore-born and bred, Warfield was a student of the legendary composer Hank Levy, who contributed many scores to the Stan Kenton and Don Ellis Orchestras, one of which was the title piece to the 2014 Oscar winning film, Whiplash. Bill’s studies were at the highly acclaimed Towson State University jazz programme that Levy headed, starting in the early 1970s. Bill later earned his Masters Degree at the Manahattan School of Music and garnered a host of scholarships and awards while there. He has also played with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Mel Lewis, the Dave Liebman Big Band, Paul Anka and The Spinners.

Along with writing all of the material Warfield’s lead and solo trumpet are heard to great effect throughout the disc. Other top solo voices that illuminate this Hellish Kitchen include “Blue” Lou Marini, “Dirty” Dave Riekenberg and Andrew Gould on saxophones as well as John Eckert on trumpet, and the redoubtable Mr Show Biz himself, longtime musical director and side-kicking chum of Dave Letterman, Paul Shaffer on the Hammond Organ.

Of particular note to this listener was Warfield’s tune Dance of the Coal Cars which he wrote at age 21. Bill recalled: “It’s about when I first moved to Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) hearing the trains in the train yard across the river banging all night long. I tried to emulate the train whistle on the front of the tune.” Which he did successfully, I’d say… 81-year-old veteran NYC trumpeter John Eckert claims the solo honours with his heartfelt yet lyrical lines which exercise plenty of space, drawing attention to his unique and profound melodicisms. In addition, the touching Kenny Ascher waltz, Rainbow Connection, from the 1979 Muppet Movie is delivered exquisitely by Carolyn Leonhart‘s understated yet poignant vocal.

A culinary concoction that spices and savours throughout, the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra cooks on all levels. A heartily recommended menu that will satiate all palates of musical tastes. Order your helping before the kitchen closes, please.

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