Snarky Puppy: Empire Central
Snarky Puppy, the genre-bending superband, is much like its native Dallas. On Empire Central, the eclectic 19-piece electro ensemble is big and bold, chill and laid-back, rooted in homegrown culture yet outward-looking, forward-thinking. With 16 new compositions, including the song "Take It!" - regrettably the last recorded appearance of '80s funk star Bernard Wright, whom Snarky leader Michael League describes as a godlike figure - the group looks fondly to its origins and is confident in the polished vigor with which its members continue to expand the unique Snarky Puppy sound That sound now rises like a skyscraper from a 21st-century orchestra of three guitarists, at least four keyboardists, two brass players, two horn players, a violinist, several drummers and percussionists, and the accomplished but unassuming League holding it all together with his bass. This lineup was unimaginable when ten friends enrolled in the jazz program at the University of North Texas (aka North Texas State) in Denton, 30 miles from Dallas, first came together in 2004. But as the core members of Snarky Puppy moved to town and were embraced by the area's black churches and musicians, they matured "Our sound world has expanded dramatically over the years," says League "When the band started, we were jazzier, smarter and world music oriented. As we got into the Dallas scene, we got groovier, more emotional and in some ways deeper. We became more focused on delivering a clear message that listeners could understand without trivializing things." With 13 albums in 18 years (winning four Grammy Awards), an international fan base and the founding of their own label, GroundUP Music, Snarky Puppy has proven that listeners will follow them into ever more confident and detailed arrangements of anthemic motifs, sweeping melodies, textured harmonies, exciting solos, earworm-worthy synth effects and driving beats.