LIVE REVIEW: Snarky Puppy @ Sage Gateshead (3.5.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Gigs simply don’t get better than this. I could end there, but in the interests of journalistic integrity I’ll go on…

The night began with a fascinating set by support band House of Waters (from Mike League’s GroundUp label), featuring the best, and fastest, hammered dulcimer player I’ve ever seen in Max ZT. Granted, I haven’t seen many, but this was top drawer musicianship. A 6-string bass (Motoa Fukushima) and tight Argentinian drums (Rivas Bixio) each took solos as the Latin and West African themed jazz funk fusion set the scene for the maestros about to take centre stage.

Since their previous outing here three years ago a lot has changed for Snarky Puppy; not only have they moved from filling the Sage’s Hall Two to filling Hall One, they have also picked up a couple of Grammys, released a couple of albums and become worldwide megastars.

This wasn’t overnight, it was through hard work, bottomless natural ability and a beastly touring schedule. The result is a truly stunning show, with a rotating band membership (last night saw Bill Laurance on keys, Larnell Lewis on drums, Bob Reynolds and Chris Bullock on sax, Mike Maher on trumpet, Justin Stanton on Keys and trumpet, Chris McQueen on guitar, Marcelo Woloski on percussion and of course, Michael League on bass and keys), not to mention rotating giant screens overhead and one of the best light shows I’ve ever seen.

The music though, oh, the music, the brand of jazz they play has elements of Brecker Brothers, a tinge of Weather Report, and for those in the know, a handful of Andy Sheppard and Steve Lodder’s Delivery Suite, yet it is entirely different.  It’s orchestral beauty has drama, intrigue, and baffling polyrhythms overlayed by scintillating improvised solos.  It isn’t ‘difficult’ though, it’s like taking the Times cryptic crossword and having the answers drift out at you as if you were blessed with Fryesque cerebral mastery. However, screaming out from this assembly of virtuosos is the deafening sound of humility and modesty – Mike took a good five minutes out to encourage the crowd to go and help local bands by BUYING their music and GOING to their gigs rather than streaming the songs, which results in a big fat 0$₤€ for the artist.

This wasn’t about Snarky, they are smart, they recorded the gig to sell back to the faithful (I’ll buy it, no question), this was about giving fledgling bands their break.  Snarky Puppy really are the greatest band, in every sense, thanks guys, you are a credit to jazz and music as a whole.

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