Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here ★★★★

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Ropeadope / GroundUP Records
Michael League (el b, Moog keybass), Bill Laurance (p, Fender Rhodes, kys),Justin Stanton (Fender Rhodes, kys, t), Cory Henry (Hammond B3 organ, kys),Shaun Martin (Moog, kys), Bob Lanzetti (el g), Mark Lettieri (el g), Chris McQueen (el g), Chris Bullock (ts, b clt, fl), Bob Reynolds (ts), Mike ‘Maz’ Maher (t, flhn), Jay Jennings (t, flhn), Nate Werth (perc), Larnell Lewis (d), Yannick Hiwat, Tessel Hersbach (vln), Mara Tieles (vla), Susanne Rosmolen (clo), Julio Pimental and Steven Brezet (perc on tracks 4 & 7). Rec. October 2013

Since 2005 Snarky Puppy have had a studio audience present at every recording, most vividly captured on the simultaneously filmed DVDs of each album notably 2012’s breakthrough GroundUP and their recent Grammy winning Family Dinner Vol.1. If this squares the circle of bringing a certain frisson of in-concert energy to the often clinically dry studio, the fact that this band are exceptionally grooved-in after playing 1,000 gigs, Michael League’s Snarky Puppy take their levels of sophisticated textural layering and sheer groove prowess to new levels here. With no less than 20 players all breathing as one, the music – while still offering singable ways in to their melodic world – doesn’t shy away from lengthy solos or rhythmic complexity. Older hands may nod as they acknowledge the snap of Tower Of Power in the horns or Weather Report in the wide chordal shifts, yet Snarky’s energy and enthusiasm for recasting this afresh for their generation to embrace anew, free from histrionics, is only to be applauded. There’s variation aplenty too from the brooding Arabic rock of opener ‘Shofukan’, to the Led Zeppelin-via-P Funk-injected ‘What About Me’, and ‘Kite’s wide-angle horn arrangements. While this is all about the collective, drummer Larnell Lewis (who only stepped into record the album at the last minute) impressively powers the percussive vortex while keyboardist Corey Henry builds two extraordinary solos. In fact it’s Henry and the horn section that duel it out on the burning 5/4 finale ‘Lingus’ as percussion, keys solo and stabbing horn interjections face off in spectacular fashion. Dedicated to a certain Irish airline it’s a fittingly exultant touchdown for this highflying tour de force of an album.

– Mike Flynn