The previous utterance is a sound you may be liable to make if you embark on a jazz journey with Snarky Puppy. You may also find yourself leaning way back into that utterance when the horns kick in. Or when the synth just starts laying right into it. Or when the bass hits you with a groove unlike any other. Fresh off their Grammy win, the jazz collective has just released their most recent live-studio album, We Like It Here, and what can I really say. Snarky Puppy is doing exactly what Snarky Puppy does. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we?
I wrote a while back about Snarky Puppy’s live performance. One that came completely out of nowhere and knocked me on my ass. I wrote about the incredible energy and synchronicity of the band. The songs were so intricately crafted and yet had so much freedom and room to explore. Snarky Puppy’s albums translate that energy in a way that few other bands have managed to accomplish due to their unique method of recording albums. Snarky Puppy brings the bulk of their giant collective, in this case 20 musicians, into the studio along with a live studio audience. They record every part of the album at once in the presence of their delighted listeners, and thus manage to combine the fine detail and precision of the studio with the togetherness and life of live music. This notion also gives the listener an idea of the dedication and raw talent of this group. Despite the fact that each song on the album is one straight take, none of the musicians ever miss a note, a chord change, and they’re never even slightly out of sync. As a band they have worked out and practised every tiny aspect to give their fans the tightest tunes in all the land.
I feel like Snarky Puppy has brought back big band jazz in the most wonderful way possible. By using a number of voices seldom seen in the jazz world of today, and then combining that with diverse influences such as funk, soul, R&B, rock, and blues, Snarky Puppy has created what I can only describe as Big Band Jazz Fusion. We Like It Here features so many different textures, different voices, different soloists…all wrapped up in the leading bass of Michael League. The resulting album sounds even bigger than the sum of all the individual members, but they also know just the right moments to bring the ensemble down and let a simpler arrangement take over.
It seems like I will never be able to choose a favourite Snarky Puppy record. Each one is a shining pillar in the world of modern jazz. At the moment, the full album is streaming on their website, so go give it a try. Jazz listener or not, I’m sure you will find something to dig into on We Like It Here. They’ve also released an accompanying DVD, and they will be releasing the video tracks of the album one at a time every Monday. Do not miss out on the Snarkiest of Puppies.