Snarky Puppy at the Roundhouse – EFG London Jazz Festival

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Each time they return to London, the American Grammy award-winning Snarky Puppy have a bigger venue awaiting them. Last May they played the Scala and for this year’s London Jazz Festival they played the Roundhouse to a sell-out crowd, with Magda Banda (including some members of Snarky Puppy) as the opening act. The collective - formed in Texas almost a decade ago - constantly changes, the only real constant is the founder bass guitarist Michael League.

The fascinating combination of genres and the spectacular solo improvisations of each member of the band, are the elements that have always characterised Snarky Puppy on stage. They have a powerful groove and extraordinary improvisational skills that allow them to draw different soundscapes. The opener ‘Binky’ merges hip-hop, shades of Africa and rock-blues passages. Pink Floyd are not only present on ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ T-shirt that Michael League wears; before the final reprise of ‘Binky’, there is a subtle reminder of the endless guitar arpeggio of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 1-5’. ‘Outlier’ with its moog synthesiser melody and jazz drums patterns is soaked in progressive-rock influences, while the lyrical ‘Kite’ - ‘the closest thing we have to a ballad’ according to League – recalls the Pat Metheny sense of melody.

After an hour, the jazz fusion of Snarky Puppy grew extremely improvisational and each member chipped in their unique and personal way: the astonishing drums solo on ‘Tio Macaco’ and the spine-tingling Hendrix-style solo of Chris McQueen guitar, left the audience dumbfounded.

The encores saw the London multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, invited on stage by League to play ‘Quarter Master’, which with its boogie crescendo takes the audience – always ready to sing along the melodies of most of the compositions - back to New Orleans after an astounding two hour's music journey. The stage is the authentic home for these young and talented musicians.

– Chiara Felice