Jazz Watch / SNARKY PUPPY
Big band fusion meets funk meets electronica
The group founded by Michael League has won three Grammys.
Photos courtesy of the artist
At the Town Ballroom, 681 Main Street
In the decade and a half since it formed in Denton, Texas, (a college town north of Dallas with a habit of turning out genre-blind musicians from Sly Stone to the polka-punks in Brave Combo and the electronic weirdness of Neon Indian), this jazz outfit has evolved in a few predictable ways, like relocating to Brooklyn and winning three Grammy Awards. But it has also taken some sharp left turns, like releasing a thirty-two-disc (!) boxed set of live recordings and being more prone to play sweaty SRO rock clubs than sit-down jazz venues. If its name suggests a jam band, you’re not too far off the mark; the band exists in relation to that genre as the fusion outfits of the seventies did to hard rock.
On a typical Snarky composition, a big band brass section rubs up against a scorching electric guitar solo, which then gives way to a funk-based groove followed by a long passage that would feel right at home on a late-period Steely Dan album before heading into twenty-first-century electronica. Oh, but we’ve left out the classical-sounding violins and the Bitches Brew-era trumpet, to say nothing of founder Michael League’s otherworldly oud. The group’s revolving membership is similarly fluid; its 2019 album Immigrance features a jaw-dropping nineteen players. (Promo shots of the band are thus obliged to make use of the panorama format.) No telling how many of them will crowd the stage at Town, but it’s safe to say Snarky Puppy will bring a sound big enough to fill a space three times as large.