PROGRESSIVE TWIST ON A STORIED TRADITION
Snarky Puppy’s fusiony freewheeling approach makes big-band jazz cool again
The jazz big-band format in progressive music has ample precedent. From adventurous ‘70s acts like Chase and the Don Ellis Orchestra to bandleader JohnDaversa’s grand ensemble projects and the
Ed Palermo Big Band’s spins on Frank Zappa repertoire, being complex, loud and brassy is but another hue in the colorful progressive spectrum.
In fact, the very term “progressive” applied to musical boundary pushing was introduced by bandleader Stan Kenton, an American jazz pianist, composer and arranger who rose to stardom in the 1940s. Despite this rich heritage, the relative dearth of inventive big-band jazz groups in contemporary progressive music seems puzzling—especially in
A Brooklyn, N.Y.-based collective by the peculiar name of Snarky Puppy is helping change that. Led by its own modern-day Stan Kenton in bassist/composer /arranger Michael League, Snarky Puppy draws an
uncommonly diverse following to its deft fusion of exploratory electric jazz, rock and funk bearing improvisational jam-band overtones.
Enjoying support from traditional jazz buffs, hip millennials and progheads alike, the band has reaped mainstream accolades including a 2014 Grammy Award (Best R&B Performance) for song “Something” from album Family Dinner Volume One and a 2016 Grammy (Best Contemporary Instrumental Album) honoring Sylva, an ambitious collaboration with Holland’s Metropole Orchestra. Formed by League in 2004 at the acclaimed University of North Texas music school, Snarky Puppy exists both as a
production team/session band and original touring act dedicated to making music “for your brain and your booty,” according to its press bio.
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