Album Review: Snarky Puppy – Immigrance
The eagerly waited, much touted follow-up to 2016’s Culcha Vulcha, sees Michael League at the head of his “pop band that improvises a lot, without vocals” deploying a host of musicians in a typically wide-ranging, ambitious but accessible melange of contemporary fusion. There’s no Cory Henry this time, but Bobby Sparks gives a good account of himself on minimoog, Bill Laurance still contributes his distinctive, neatly melodic flavour piano on keys, and newcomer Zach Brock on violin gives things a taste of 70s Mahavishnu or Jean-Luc Ponty. The theme of inclusive multi-culturalism hinted at in the title, and garnered from the band’s tireless globetrotting from festival to festival, is expressed through the addition of plentiful extra percussion on board; Xavi has a mix of North African hand drums, Even Us features the Turkish bendir; Chonks adds congas to the heavy backbeat-laden 70s funk nastiness. In general, though, the Snarky template remains intact – widescreen jazz-fusion, with uplifting horn-heavy ensemble passages interspersed with virtuosic solos from keys over punchy ostinatos. The double-drummer set up keeps the grooves hot and heavy, and there’s some state-of-the-art beat displacement on show on Bling Bling for the head-nodding crew to get into. The material moves on a spectrum from the indie-rock (as the phrase is understood in the states) of Coven at one end, to more LA-style fusion of Bad Kids At The Back, complete with horn lines with the snap and crackle of the Brecker Brothers at the other, and there’s some extra juice from the electronica both in the bassline and over the top end. Even Us is a more reflective moment at the closer, with League strumming the oud and some sitar as well for good measure, but overall this album delivers the well-honed Snarky formula with the kind of muscular punch and aplomb that we’re used to, and should go down a storm at this year’s Love Supreme.
Bob Lanzetti, Chris McQueen, Mark Lettieri, electric guitar; Michael League, electric bass, Moog Prodigy bass, oud, handclaps; Bill Laurance, Justin Stanton, Bobby Sparks, Shaun Martin, keyboards; Mike ‘Maz’ Maher, Jay Jennings, trumpet/flugelhorn; Chris Bullock, sax and reeds; Bob Reynolds, tenor sax; Zach Brock, violin; Nate Werth, Keita Ogawa, Marcelo Woloski, percussion; Jason ‘JT’ Thomas, Larnell Lewis, Jamison Ross, drums.