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Snarky Puppy: Immigrance (GroundUp)

A review of the band's 12th album

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Immigrance by Snarky Puppy
The cover of Immigrance by Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy’s modus operandi, while drawing from its players’ roots in jazz harmony and improvisation, has always been about musical sprawl, from the oversized personnel to the vibrant colors and textures heard and felt in the group’s sound. Yes, it’s a type of fusion, but, it’s also an ever-shifting synthesis, with bassist-composer Michael League leading the group in connecting the dots between varied genres.

Immigrance, its title referencing ongoing political controversies, also points to the band’s global approach to music-making, informed by its extensive travels; the fluidity of Snarky Puppy compositions reflects the fluidity of immigration across the globe. And League and Co. literalize that idea with a gambit—drummers Jamison Ross, Jason “JT” Thomas, and Larnell Lewis are all heard on every composition, seamlessly switching off between sections.

While the hooks on Immigrance generally aren’t as large or as catchy as on earlier Snarky Puppy recordings, there’s a great immediacy to these grooves, and plenty of thrilling solos, starting with Bobby Sparks’ guitar-like clavinet outing on the opening, aptly titled “Chonks,” its electro-funk grit countered by a peppy trumpet/flugelhorn line.

And then in swerves “Bigly Strictness,” its pulsating eighth-note rhythms topped by a proggish melody and, later, zoning in on Middle Eastern and African percussion and textures borrowed in part from Turkish darbuka virtuoso Misirli Ahmet, a recent major influence on League. The tour of world rhythms continues with League’s “Xavi,” which he based on a Moroccan chaabi groove. It’s a swirling maelstrom of percussion, flutes, guitars, keyboards, violin, and trumpets that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a globe-hopping James Bond film.

Bass clarinet signals the start of “Coven,” which leans into jazz fusion, and the hip-hop rhythms of “Bling Bling” feed a chill-lounge vibe. “Bad Kids to the Back” hews closer to familiar Snarky Puppy jazz-funk, blasted open with Bob Reynolds’ darting tenor solo, and draws to a close with a fierce drum battle. It’s the feelgood pick of the disc.

Preview, buy or download Immigrance on Amazon!

Listen to “Xavi,” the first cut released from Immigrance.

Originally Published