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How Snarky Puppy became the hub / Buffalo News

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The main movement not mired in the past is an underground one that is spreading through the ceaseless activities of the members of one band – Snarky Puppy, the ever-fluid ensemble that won a Grammy in 2014, but still remains an entity operating away from (and often against) the mainstream.

Snarky Puppy is led by bassist and composer Michael League, and is composed of musicians who represent a thoroughly modern phenomenon – the ability to make genuinely worthwhile musical statements in just about any subgenre you can imagine, from jazz to R&B, neo-classical to pop, alternative to funk. Beholden to no one, and seemingly open to all ideas, Snarky Puppy has been pointing the way forward for several years now, and suggesting that what lies ahead is a rethinking of the tired idea that an artist must be loyal to one genre in a clique-like fashion, to the exclusion of all others.

Snarky Puppy is more movement than mere band, simply because falling beneath the group's sway places a whole world of music at the listener's fingertips. There's the albums released beneath the band's own imprimatur which number 10 by this point, and touch upon nearly as many musical flavors as one can name. (The latest, "Family Dinner Vol. 2," features a host of guest singers and musicians, including Susana Baca, Charlie Hunter, David Crosby, Salif Keita, Laura Mvula, Ivan Neville, Jacob Collier and Terence Blanchard.

But that's just the beginning, for in Snarky's world, the band is the mothership, but all involved are free to leave and recombine in various solo guises or small-combo subdivisions. Witness the recent release of keyboardist Bill Laurance's "Aftersun," a moving collection of genre-jumping cosmic American songs featuring fellow Snarky Puppy members League and drummer Robert "Sput" Searight. This is an album that struts with the confident swagger of Herbie Hancock's "headhunters" in spots, then moves with the studied precision-funk of uber-geeks Vulfpeck at another, though at its core is a majestic and sweeping strain of mood music bolstered by strong harmonic movement – a soundtrack to a film that plays only in the theater of the imagination. It sounds like tomorrow's music, as does everything Cory Henry does with his side project, the Funk Apostle, whose recent set at NAMM in Anaheim I was lucky enough to catch, and who has made it to Buffalo twice for packed shows at the Iron Works in the past 18 months.

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