Friday, June 29, 2012

Funk Friday - Spotlight on Snarky Puppy

In 2004, bassist, composer and producer Michael League formed the jazz-funk ensemble Snarky Puppy at the University of North Texas College of Music in Denton, TX; a hot bed of musical talent in a city that is self-described as a "stomping ground of Jazz musicians and enthusiasts." The band, which operates as something of a collective with a revolving array of nearly 30 musicians, is on the cutting edge of both funk and jazz music. Today's Funk Friday is all Snarky Puppy and you should be very, very happy about that.

Michael League grew up in Texas, in the American South and this is important. Jazz was born in the South and since its ascension to the mainstream in the early 20th century, it has continued to be defined and shaped by Southern musicians. Texas borders Louisiana, a state whose largest and most cultured city, New Orleans is the ultimate mecca for big band style jazz-funk, which I like to call NOLA Funk music. Here's a great performance from Snarky Puppy that takes the NOLA style and slowly builds a steady groove until hitting a climax that almost literally explodes with sound.

This Wednesday I had the glorious pleasure to see Snarky Puppy play live at The Rex, arguably the finest bar in Toronto to take in a show by local and international jazz artists. Playing to a packed house of mostly jazz-hungry teenagers and early twentysomethings, the Snarky Puppy live experience is something of an intense, but inclusive, accessible and wholly memorable trip:  jams happen slowly, starting from basic melodic themes that eventually build their way into satisfyingly heavy grooves provided by League and his tighter-than-tight rhythm section. League and Snarky Puppy's addictive blend of jazz, funk and hip-hop has cemented them as an inventive, powerful force to be reckoned with. I for one will be on my toes to see where they go next.

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