The future of fusion is here, and it's the improbably named Snarky Puppy. More a loose collective of musicians at the top of their respective games than a band, "the Fam" have been delivering the goods for some time now, picking up Grammys and critical kudos, and even curating their own Ground Up music festival. And much like electric-era Miles Davis' crack unit of musicians, this group has a hundred flowers blooming in its ranks, with members branching off to make music with the likes of Prince, Erykah Badu, Justin Timberlake, Ghost Note and David Crosby.
Immigrance is the Fam's latest, and compared to their previous amped-up studio outings, this one is a little stripped-down – or at least as minimalist as a multi-headed hydra like Snarky Puppy can be. The grooves are solid, and the funk is inspired. Overall, the album is like a collection of well thought-out ideas and sketches – Snarky's White Album, if you will.
All said, the band are building on the sonic groundwork laid down by the likes of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Headhunters and the Crusaders, but giving it a modern spin for the electronica and hip-hop generations.
If this is making your ears curious, that's good, because they're in town this week and you can experience their 21st-century fusion in person. Speaking of in-person, the Orlando Weekly spoke to Puppy guitarist Bob Lanzetti about Immigrance and the upcoming tour.
Orlando Weekly: First, we'd like to know logistics. There are some 18 people in Snarky Puppy; are you going to attempt to bring everyone or most?
Bob Lanzetti: No, usually when we play live it's nine or 10 [musicians]. I don't even know how many there are! It will be a much tighter line-up, though.
What's fascinating about Snarky is that so many of the band members are leaders in their own respective projects.
I just played recently a gig of my own, and an audience member commented that we're everywhere lately. It's true, and a good feeling to be a part of something like this.
Are we going to see some of that Ground Up energy on stage here?
I hope so. It's interesting playing this kind of music, because we're changing all the time. You never know who you're going to get. I don't even know who's going to be on the tour or what we're going to play yet.
How do you feel about Immigrance now that it's out there in the world?
Honestly, it's one of my favorite records that we've done. It's probably because of the eclectic mix of music and having more composers on it. I think it's a more well-rounded experience for us, and I hope for the listeners too. There're hip-hop elements, electronic elements ...
What was in the musical stew of this album?
Compared to our previous albums, what we had started on Culcha Vulcha we were able to refine, and as I said, we have more writers on this, but it does have a streamlined sound. Also we had way more music than we needed, which is nice because it gives us more surprises to play live.
"Even Us" is the most somber tune you have ever done. It closes the album and makes one wonder if this record was supposed to have a haunting end.
That was a fun song to play. That and "Coven," it's beautiful in the same way.
Head Puppy Michael League recently marveled about the diversity of his band's following to Rolling Stone: "There are people in Slayer or Biggie Smalls T-shirts. Sometimes it's folkloric musicians. There are people who were around when Weather Report was doing its thing ... It's a very diverse audience." The curious and the open-eared in Orlando are urged to find their way to this show for this heady musical brew.
– This story is from the Sept. 25, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.