As summer progresses, I find my ears wandering into new territory. The sonic grounds I have stumbled into this year are marked by Snarky Puppy, a Texas-grown band with almost 30 musicians in regular rotation.
I know—the name sounds ridiculous, but trust me on this one. Snarky Puppy is a genre-hopping mixture of everything from bebop to hip-hop, with grooves so infectious that you will need a week’s worth of antibiotics to get them out of your system!
The horn section consists of a tenor saxophonist, two trumpet players, and a trombonist, all of whom have clearly honed their chops for quite some time. A basic string section fills out the sound of the band, and a rhythm section consisting of multiple keyboardists, a killer drummer, two guitarists, a bassist, and a Latin auxiliary percussion section, gives the band a concrete foundation.
Their most famous album, GroundUP, features originals that are always innovative. You’ll hear a violin solo with an effects pedal, a ragtime piano feature, slide guitar, and every beat from New Orleans to odd-meter hip-hop.
The song “Binky” starts with a mean groove, features a sax solo and a cornet solo, then drops out of thin air into a beautiful, constantly developing melody, and ends in a heavy outro that wipes the smile off your face and the tears from your eyes (in the best of ways). “Quarter Master” has a street beat that conjures up images of a black gospel choir clapping and hollering praise. Its mass improvisation in the horns finishes off both the song and the album in grand style.
Snarky Puppy’s modern vibe is definitely worth checking out—sometimes straying from straight ahead isn’t such a bad thing!