By Alan Weeks, howiGit Music Writer, Boston, MA
Greetings True Believers, I am back to drop some knowledge after a long hiatus. The trials and tribulations of being a part-time law student and a full-time music junky have made it difficult for me to find the time to write. This, coupled with the fact that I haven’t really heard anything strikingly revolutionary in the music world that you haven’t already been introduced to has made me reluctant to post any new information. Luckily, while on a road trip to the Southland with the Mrs. this past month, I was struck by something truly different and new to me. While I was endlessly skimming through the countless country radio stations that you find south of the Mason-Dixon line, I stopped on a station that seemed to be playing some kind of synthesized jazz-fusion. I listened to the entirety of the song, and waited curiously to hear who had created this unique and unbelievably catchy tune. The creators are none other than Texas-based Snarky Puppy.
Snarky Puppy is an instrumental based fusion band, formed in 2004, that boasts an ensemble that contains, at times, 30 musicians. These 30 musicians, referred to as “The Fam” perform on a variety of instruments, including: guitar, saxophone, electric violin, synthesizer, keys, trumpets, and numerous forms of percussion. Upon arriving at our destination in Atlanta, I asked my friend an (accomplished musician) if he had heard of this band from Texas that sounded like “they had 100 instruments.” He responded emphatically, and immediately sat me down to watch a YouTube video of the band recording a song called “Slow Demon.” After the 8-minute song, I was awestruck. I couldn’t even control my head from doing the bass player funk nod. I hadn’t felt this way in a long time. It was like the first time that I heard “The Weight” by the Band. The
sound was so complete and full, even with so much going on. I just had the feeling that I needed more. Not wanted more, I needed to hear more from these guys. The next several weeks of my life contained a copious amount of Snark.
Many bands that have large ensembles of various types of instruments sound confused and as though you are listening to a lot of sound, as opposed to a well orchestrated performance. This is not the case with Snarky Puppy. As I have stated before, I am a sucker for progressive rock music, but this is so much more than that. Listening to a song from this band is like listening to Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Yes, Steely Dan and Thievery Corporation all at once. Their seamless delivery of funk, jazz, and progressive rock is something I have never really encountered before. I had heard of this kind of fusion from bands like Medeski Martin & Wood, but had never delved into it. Needless to say, I have some listening to do.
These guys are up and coming, and you are likely to hear about them in the next year or so in some capacity. They have just released their latest album “Ground Up.” And let me tell you, it is stellar. If you are looking for a taste of the band, to see if you will dig their sound, I would check this link to their recording of “Slow Demon.” This is great music to throw on at a party, or to jam to on the way to work, when you need some funk in your step. They are playing at Café 939 at the Berklee College of Music’s Red Room next Tuesday and Wednesday (for those of you in the Boston area). Tickets are $15.00 for each individual night, or $25.00 for both nights. I will be attending, and grooving my shoes off.
I know it is an old jazz saying that “it is the notes you don’t play,” but let me say that even in restraint, this band will have you moving. I hope that I don’t jinx them into becoming Abercrombie and Fitch’s official band, like I did with Foster The People.
Check them out and let me know what you think.