If you’ve never heard of Snarky Puppy, this is what you need to know:
Under the direction of bandleader, composer and bassist Michael League, Snarky Puppy is arguably one of the most talented bands around today. Except they aren’t really a band. Snarky Puppy is a collective of nearly 40 different musicians who flow in and out of the group depending on their engagements with other artists like Erykah Badu, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Marcus Miller and Roy Hargrove. With only about 10 core members, it is unbelievable how tight their sound is considering the fact that their lineup is subject to change on a nightly basis.
Another thing that is amazing about Snarky Puppy is that they are actually popular. Snarky Puppy is an instrumental fusion band, which seems like music for musicians, but something about their insanely intricate sound is accessible to a very wide audience. The group also won a Grammy award for best R&B performance this year for their collaboration with with Lalah Hathaway on the song “Something” from their live DVD/CD Family Dinner – Volume One. A band like Snarky Puppy winning a Grammy is absolutely unheard of, especially when up against artists like Miguel and Kendrick Lamar.
The video I want you to watch is a live recording of their song “Lingus” off of their most recent album We Like It Here. You’ll notice that the band is performing this song live, but there is a small audience and everyone is wearing red headphones. That’s because they are recording this song live, no second takes, nothing. What you hear in this video is what you’ll hear right off the album. This is ridiculous when you consider the intricacy, improvisational nature and sheer amount of musicians involved in their music.
The song is great. The melodies are catchy, the beat is heavy and the groove is infectious. However, what you really need to look out for is Cory Henry’s keyboard/synthesizer solo starting at around 4:21. A great solo is like a story with an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Henry’s solo has a beautiful exposition and builds to an explosive climax… but it just never stops growing in intensity. If you were to plot the contour of his solo out on a graph, the growth would be exponential. Simply put, I’ve never heard anything like it before. With an instrument like the keyboard, it is easy to spit out 1000 notes/second in a virtuosic attempt to impress the audience in what actually sounds like you’re just dicking around. Henry’s solo isn’t like that. His phrases are artistic and the whole thing reads like a story. Not once do his ideas run dry, his playing is never stale and his sound is always building upon itself, going somewhere bigger and better until he’s finally done and the only thing you can think to do is laugh in disbelief.
So yeah, check this video out. I know instrumental music is hard to appreciate for some people, but the high quality video recording adds another dimension that really helps you understand the immense talent and intricacy of Snarky Puppy’s sound. Snarky Puppy has lots of other music, so if you like this then check them out on your own or don’t be afraid to ask me for some recommendations.
P.S. Check out another Snarky Puppy article that I wrote as part of an SEO project at work