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Snarky Puppy: The Limits of Control

Behind the climb of fusion's new heavyweights

Snarky Puppy at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Bandleader and bassist Michael League is second from right.
Snarky Puppy, Newport Jazz Festival 2014
Snarky Puppy's Michael League in the studio. Photo courtesy of Michael League
Michael League and early Snarky Puppy at the University of North Texas. Photo courtesy of Michael League

Snarky Puppy began as a bunch of music-obsessed undergrads at the University of North Texas, and now it’s the most popular instrumental band in the country. The explanation, it would seem, has to do with the ability to raise precision and prowess to a grand scale while making it look good for YouTube. Forty-five years after Weather Report’s debut, in the era of the niche, an audience still waits at the waterline between jazz chops and pop aesthetics-though the definition of both has changed.

The band’s lineup ranges from a dozen musicians to nearly three times that, depending on the gig. Its carefully scripted songs tend to last well over six minutes. With a Herculean touring schedule, 200-show years are common.

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