mon 22/07/2024

Snarky Puppy, The Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Snarky Puppy, The Roundhouse

Snarky Puppy, The Roundhouse

Brooklyn-based collective's stellar musicianship and melodic power wow a capacity crowd

The power of melody: Snarky PuppyPhoto: Emile Holba

It's day five of the EFG London Jazz Festival, and Snarky Puppy's show at the Roundhouse has sold out weeks in advance. And, as the crowd sings the gorgeous main theme of “Thing of Gold” in perfect unison, one of the reasons for the band's huge success becomes apparent. Yes, there's brilliant musicianship, spirited improv, blazing energy and the kind of impressively vast textures that only a band this size can achieve. But there's something else, which trumps all of these things.

There's melody. And the kind of melody that tends to stick in your auditory cortex for days on end.

“Kite”, which front man Michael League calls “the closest thing we have to a ballad”, conjured up the same sense of vast open spaces as Pat Metheny (on record as being a fan of the band). Its shifting metres and modal scale suggested a kind of modern-day Sketches of Spain. Local hero Bill Laurance's first solo of the night was met with a very audible “yeah” from the crowd. And was that a sneaky quote of “On A Clear Day” I heard worked in?

Lewis seemed to bend time with some spectacular, how-the-hell-did-he-do-that metric modulations

There was some monster soloing in “What About Me?”, first from guitarist Chris McQueen, then drummer Larnell Lewis. Counterpointed against an analog synth riff, Lewis seemed to bend time with some spectacular, how-the-hell-did-he-do-that metric modulations, to roars of approval from the crowd. Percussionist Marcelo Woloski kicked off “Tio Macaco” with a ridiculously funky tambourine solo, the song framed by a typically Snarkyesque unison riff of quite astonishing intensity. Beginning with Laurance's dramatic, circular piano vamp, “Ready Wednesday” (co-written by Laurance and League) hinted at the filmic potential of this music.

League then invited another Londoner on stage, wunderkind Jacob Collier, for the riotous funk of “Quarter Master”. While Collier could have soloed on any number of instruments, his weapon of choice this evening was the melodica, although he managed to conjure all kinds of virtuosity out of its humble two octaves. Another Snarky signature, the sudden textural drop-out, was used to brilliant effect here. Bringing their set to a close with the subtle shadings and modal inflections of “Shofukan”, the lead-off tune from We Like It Here, the band left the stage to deafening applause.

A few souls began to sing the closing theme of 'Shofukan', which soon turned into a huge, unison chorus

And then the final surprise. As the crowd slowly filed out of the venue, a few souls began to sing the closing theme of “Shofukan”, which soon turned into a huge, perfectly in tune unison chorus. In his 1993 film Manhattan Murder Mystery Woody Allen joked, "I can't listen to that much Wagner, you know. I start to get the urge to conquer Poland". When you hear Snarky Puppy, you want to make music. With Family Dinner Volume Two due out in February and an album featuring the Metropole Orchestra due in April, it looks like 2015 is going to be quite a year for the band.

Featuring accordionist and vocalist Magda Giannikou, the evening's opening set by Banda Magda included the charming “Couche-toi” and the very beautiful “Amour T'es La” (from Family Dinner Volume One), the latter song surely a strong contender for catchiest chorus hook ever.

Beginning with Laurance's dramatic, circular piano vamp, 'Ready Wednesday' hinted at the filmic potential of this music


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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