Snarky Puppy at Beachland Ballroom: Concert Review

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The Brooklyn-based jazz fusion collective Snarky Puppy has been garnering a great deal of attentive eyes and ears in several corners of the contemporary music scene. They were nominated for a Grammy this year (in the "Best R&B Performance" slot), but they also showed up on lists like Denver Westword's "Ten Jam Bands to Watch in 2014."

It is under those spotlights and several more that the band arrived in Cleveland last night. Fans packed the ballroom for a two-set show that coursed through a variety of moods and rhythms.

An interesting little exercise during a Snarky Puppy show is to home in on one particular musician and really listen to what he's contributing to the overall song. There are polyrhythms dancing all around one another, and each instrument is likely contrasting against some (or all) others. Bassist Michael League - the bandleader here - held down the low end as he cheered on his friends around him. And right away, the brass section began stealing the show with their rapid-fire delivery and fantastical lead work.

Eventually, though, each musician would a) truly shine during a solo at some point(s) and/or b) take on a depth of character for the night, constantly fulfilling and improving on a role within the band as a whole. The entire show was a group effort, of course, and it was easy to see that these musicians enjoy playing with one another - and that their talent will keep them going for years to come.

The band played several songs off their forthcoming album, due out next month. They all sounded fantastic and, perhaps, more "open" than some of their previous material. Interestingly, the album was recorded in Dutch city of Utrecht.

(I'm looking around for some audio of last night's gig. Until then, check out Snarky Puppy's 3/30/13 show at Berklee:)

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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