In 2013, the New York-based avant jazz group Snarky Puppy gave almost 200 performances and workshops on four continents. It played festivals such as North Sea Jazz, Monterey Jazz Festival, Jazz á Vienne, Blue Note Tokyo, and the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.
“We play a lot of shows,” says band leader Michael League. “We keep it really busy.”
The band is finally getting its due too. Last year, Family Dinner — Volume One, a groove-oriented disc that mixes pop, funk and jazz rhythms, got a Grammy for Best R&B Performance and charted at No. 1 on the ITUNES Jazz Charts.
“It was surreal,” League says of the Grammy awards. “We’re not accustomed to being in a mainstream spotlight. We’re better known in the underground. We’re not used to standing next to Katy Perry, but that’s what the vibe was like. It was amazing to be recognized.”
The band first came together at the University of North Texas when League started jamming with a few friends.
“We were students in the jazz department and I started the band out in an unassuming way," he says. "I got nine of my friends to come to my house and read music. I had a concept. I wanted to do music that was groove based and influenced by different global styles. I wanted it to be melodic and singable.”
The band has a new album coming out on April 20. It's a live CD/DVD made in the Netherlands alongside the multi-Grammy-winning Metropole Orkest. It will also release Family Dinner — Volume 2.
“It was like the closest I’ve ever come to utopia," says League when asked about Family Dinner — Volume 2. "We had all these musicians in one building and people supporting each other and playing music. We try to make a point to bridge genres.”
On Friday at Severance Hall, the Cleveland Orchestra performs in the main concert hall, but Magda Giannikou performs with members of Snarky Puppy and guests from the Oberlin Performance and Improvisation Ensemble at 7 p.m. in the Grand Foyer prior to the concert. Snarky Puppy will play a post-concert show.