They Like it Here: Snarky Puppy Beantown Recap

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You may have mistaken the pop/R&B/jazz/fusion sensation, Snarky Puppy, for Berklee College of Music alumni; after all, they are basically treated as such. Few non-Berklee affiliated acts receive such acclaim and adoration from the Berklee community, faculty and students alike. Having collaborated with alumna Lalah Hathaway, performed at the Berklee Performance Center numerous times, and given a clinic at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival this past spring, Snarky Puppy made an appearance at the Beantown Jazz Festival this year. You could say that these guys are honorary alumni of our school, or even honorary faculty, but one thing is for sure: these University of North Texas alums can hang with the best of the best.

Michael League and his crew sound-checked in about five minutes, did a quick level check, and were off to the races, opening with a crowd favorite “Lingus” from their album We Like It Here. The crowd was electric, energized, and full. Maybe it’s the jazz-inspired harmony, the r&b-flavored groove, the poppy melodic sensibilities, or the completely awe-inspiring tightness of this band — maybe it’s a combination of all four — but it’s hard to find a member of the Berklee community with something negative to say about Snarky Puppy. They had this crowd in the palm of their hand before they played a single note, and although I’m sure many of the fans at the festival had tickets to their sold-out show at the Berklee Performance Center just a day later, it never hurts to have a double shot of Snarky in one weekend.

League’s compositions are brought to life by a band of virtuosi, each member knowing exactly what his place is in every moment of every piece; they all get their moment to showcase their talents, and all play an equal role in the foundation of the tunes. A perfect example would be the crowd favorite, “Binky,” which caught the audience by surprise, starting with a spontaneous jam. One thing is for sure: these cats can play and they know each other’s musical sensibilities so well, you’d think they’ve been playing for over 40 years. The chemistry in this group of musicians rivals that of The Rolling Stones, Rush, or any other living multi-decade band: that is the mark of accomplished, trained, creative, and spiritual musicians.

The thing about Snarky is that they can appeal to all kinds of musicians; that is the secret of their marketability and versatility. Jazz students can get into the complex and intellectual aspects of the compositions and improvisations; funk/r&b musicians love the fat groove and hard-hitting bass; and any pop musician or songwriting student can dig the catchiness of literally any melody Snarky throws at the crowd.

The short set closed with the driving, hard-hitting “What About Me,” the second track off of We Like It Here.  Ask any audience member, I’m sure they did…

– Jake Ohlbaum

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          February 10, 2018