BERNIE WORRELL & THE WOO WARRIORS

August 24 2001 | Tobacco Road | New York City

A beautiful summer day led up to a night of beautiful music and all kinds of faces showing up to jam with one of the masters of Funk, Bernie Worrell. Bernie's new project, the WOO Warriors with newest WOO Warrior Jen Durkin, formerly of Deep Banana Blackout, blends old skool funk with orchestral styles and boogie rock. Bernie has assembled some serious musicians and thrown the full throated vocalizations of Jen Durkin and Gregg Fitz on top of the mix. For those unfamiliar with Bernie Worrell, he was the musical director as well as co-producer with George Clinton of the original Parliament/Funkadelic "back in the day." He is also the co-author of "Red Hot Mama," "Up For the Downstroke," "Atomic Dog," and "Cosmic Slop" - to name just a few. A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer for his work with Parliament/Funkadelic, over the years he has guested with numerous artists including Warren Haynes, Blues Traveler, and the Allman Brothers.

This show was in the perfect environment. Tobacco Road has a nice room for listening and dancing with a separate room for the bar where the music can be followed via closed circuit video. The stage was a little cramped with all the WOO Warriors equipment, especially when the six musicians added a guest artist or two on stage. They opened the show with some furious jamming into "Where it's At" featuring Bernie's keys and some sick guitar solos by "the Flash." Jen Durkin A.K.A Sonic Voce' climbed the stage to rip out "Red Hot Mama" which started the crowd doing some frenetic booty shakin'. The WOO Warriors then proceeded to tear up some original P Funk music with Bernie, Sonic, and Greg "Daffy Duck" Fitz taking turns on vocals; this jam concluded with a rousing rendition of "Give the People what they Want." Bernie shouted for the crowd to sing along and "tell the government;" "Give the people what they want, when they want, when they want it all the time...give the people what they need, when they need, when they needs it all the time!"

With the crowd primed and ready, Sonic A.K.A. Jen sang the lead to "Doin it" featuring the line "Get out on the dance floor when she comes;" they were people swinging around and boogieing hard through this entire sequence. The WOO Warriors then led in to an extended keys and vocals run that featured some of their current music celebrating the WOOniverse. This music is gentle and hard all at the same time, highlighting sweet vocal and keyboard melodies with gritty bass and blistering guitar. The gritty bass work complements of Donna "Lady Bass" McPherson who can work those grooves, baybee! She held down the rhythm with a changing line up of drummers including WOO Warrior regular Gary Sullivan. Three different drummers lit up the kit during the two and a half hour set.

After the extended drum solos, they introduced all three drummers, Van Romaine and Gabe Gonzalez (The UnDisco Kidd -- from P-Funk All-Stars and his own group, Enemy Squad). Another guest, Big Nancy, was brought on stage to play Harp on "Up for the Downstroke." We didn't get a bio about Big Nancy, but she plays a mean harmonica, sits in a wheel chair, and, oh yeah, she's big! Bernie and Jen primed the house with a funk fused version of Talking Heads' "Burnin' Down the House" leading in to "Universal Love" a song which shined a light on the performers soul and love was the answer. One long encore kept the dancers shakin' and the room exploding with that synthesizer led funk that Bernie Worrell specializes in. His music from the past P -Funk era and the present WOO Warrior period is all heart, soul, and of course- funk!

A kind word should be added for the present, Kasey and Juliette put together a great party for the end of summer in Manhattan. The incredible Mosaic opened up for the WOO Warriors and started the house groovin' by heating up the stage for the main act. After the main Funk assault, New Haven's Psychedelic Breakfast treated us to some interstellar guitar playing complete with P funk music thrown in everywhere they could! I found their music to be inspiring and introspective, along the lines of Frank Zappa meets Santana meets Pat Metheny. Look out for these guys to be playing major festivals next year.

Kyle Holbrook

[Published on: 9/7/01]

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