The New York instrumental ensemble that really needs no introduction. Snarky Puppy has a roster of incredible talent that leaves you pulling the same bass-face as Michael League on the cover of our grade 7 Bass books.

Lingus (We VERY MUCH Like It Here!)

There isn’t much that one can say about this song that will do it full justice. The 2014 We Like It Here track is catchy, complex, groovy and fun – you only have to see the faces of the musicians who are a part of it to see that. But before we go any further, the video of the live recording is a MUST watch. Totally essential viewing.

Cory & The Keys

Do you have goosebumps yet? We do. The talent amongst this group of musicians is completely jaw-dropping. We could write an entire blog about Cory Henry and THAT SOLO alone. At the raw age of 5, Cory was already dubbed “Master Henry” by those who knew him, for his sheer ability to accompany any song, in any key, on the Hammond organ. This solo truly solidified his rightful position in the jazz-fusion world and his career really took off after being a member of Snarky Puppy. Sadly, he no longer plays with the band, but has started a hugely successful project – Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles.

Let it be known that Snarky Puppy tunes are highly complex, thus, it should come as no surprise that “Lingus” is included in our grade 8 Keys syllabus. The challenge in this track is to really feel secure in that 5/4 time signature. The piece will demand control, rhythmic mastery, a strong sense of groove and an understanding of intricate harmony, but hey, you didn’t think this would be easy, did you?!

A League of His Own

It was actually bassist, Michael League, who founded the band back in 2004 whilst he was studying at the University of North Texas. League said that his reason for starting the band was “because I was so bad… Snarky Puppy was my way of getting to play” (though we find that hard to believe!). Ever since, the band have almost been a “collective”, rotating through a roster of performers but still keeping a tight, familial unit feel amongst them. The current roster boasts 19 members, but has seen around 40 unbelievable talents join them over their 15 years and 14 albums!

League is arguably one of the best band leaders of his generation. He is also a producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist that has collected 3 Grammy awards. For this reason, it would be a crime not to include “Lingus” in our grade 7 Bass syllabus too, which also poses its challenges for the player. You will need to develop a deep understanding of the groove, not only in the bass part. How does the keyboard comping pattern contribute to the overall feel of the piece? The first section of the song is played in half time, and when combined with an odd time signature, this almost creates the illusion of 4/4. You really have to keep your wits about you in this one!

We can all take some inspiration from the Snarky Puppy crew - Larnell Lewis, Shaun Martin, Robert “Sput” Searight, Justin Stanton. We could write a book on their individual brilliance, but I think we can all agree that the magic that happens when these musicians come together is nothing short of genius.

If this doesn’t inspire you to pick up that bass, or practise those modes a few more times, then maybe you just need to listen to a few more Snarky Puppy albums. Check out their Spotify catalogue below!

Failing that, perhaps you’d be inspired by artists like Kaki King, Queen, Bill Withers or Taylor Swift? Have a read of some of our previous Artists in Focus blog posts.