Snarky Puppy

By James Whitlock

Artist: Snarky Puppy

Date / Venue: Thursday April 6th, 2017 - The Powerstation, Auckland

I'll be brief.

Snarky Puppy is the band you need to see before you die.

Doesn't matter what genre you're in to (I'm a died-in-the-wool metalhead)... you owe it to yourself to see Michael League (bassist) and his Extraordinary Gentlemen at your earliest convenience.

It shouldn't be too long before you get your next opportunity... this is the second time in less than a year they've visited NZ (I flew to Wellington last June to see them at the Jazz Fest).

They're still touring their latest record Culcha Vulcha (which in my opinion is by no means their best work... though it won them their 3rd Grammy!), but it was a totally different show to Wellington. The band draws from a huge pool of members. It's a collective of musical genius centred around the core group of half a dozen dudes, some of whom were notably missing on this particular night at the Powerstation. Cory Henry, Bill Laurence and Nate Werth would have been great to see, but their slots were filled with brimming talent.

Whatever their line up they bring a flavour of jazz/funk that ("like all jazz", some would say... but not I) brings forth the very joy of music. The Powerstation was filled with happy people last Thursday night. Beaming faces nodding to the music and shaking with incredulity at the quality of the performance. It wasn't perfectly polished the whole time, but hey... sometimes it's just cooler not to be. Being a little loose at times just enhanced the connection with the audience, and gave the whole thing a very intimate and personal feeling. Like we were the ones giving them the energy to hit those high notes.

My favourite part of the night was during the intro to their encore 'Lingus'. Shaun Martin (synthesizers and general all-round hardcase guy) decided to forgo his talkbox intro... and instead encouraged Mike to start with a bass solo instead. Mike was a bit reluctant but after some more Shaun-led coaxing from the audience, turned on a fantastic bit 'o bass wizardry, right off the cuff.

If I had one gripe it would be that the drum kit wasn't well mic'd (miked..?) so the intricacies of JT's solos, particularly his work on the snare, were somewhat lost. It was a powerhouse performance though, hitting solid ground when it needed to and blending well with Japanese percussionist Keita Ogawa. 

Snarky Puppy is the band you need to see before you die. If you can't wait, YouTube "We Like It Here"... sit back and let them weave their way into your your musical DNA.

Snarky Puppy are (or were on that particular Thursday night in Auckland):

Bobby Sparks - keys/hammond organ
Mark Lettieri - guitar
Jason 'JT' Thomas - drums
Justin Stanton - rhodes organ/trumpet
Kaita Ogawa - percussion
Chris Bullock - sax/flute
Mike Maher - trumpet/flugel horn
Shaun Martin - keys/synths/vocoder/talkbox
Michael League - bass