Review: Snarky Puppy’s ‘Immigrance’ emulates live experience

March 13, 2019 GMT
This album cover image released by GroundUP Music shows “Immigrance," a release by Snarky Puppy. (GroundUP Music via AP)
This album cover image released by GroundUP Music shows “Immigrance," a release by Snarky Puppy. (GroundUP Music via AP)

Snarky Puppy, “Immigrance” (GroundUP Music)

With musicians from all over the United States, as well as Argentina, Canada and Japan, to name a few, and instruments from as far away as Egypt and Morocco, Snarky Puppy’s “Immigrance” rings true to its name.

Bandleader and bassist Michael League says it’s all about fluidity, motion and being “in a constant state of migration.” At 19 members — including trios of drummers, guitarists and percussionists — Snarky Puppy is a band as caravan, a group that may need to start its day with a roll call.

Winner of three Grammys and numerous other distinctions, the instrumental mega-combo is also a globalist when it comes to musical styles, finding room to add a wide spectrum of world sounds to its jazz and funk foundations.


Opener “Chonks” is chock-full of funk, while another League composition, “Bigly Strictness,” has a gnarly guitar and a Moog keyboard solo that briefly speeds up like a vintage video game.

None of the tunes have lyrics, but guitarist Chris McQueen’s “Coven” has plenty of lyricism, anchored by a horn section that frequently varies its hues as guitars and keyboards add their own emotional inputs.

“Bling Bling,” by saxophonist Chris Bullock, and League’s “Xavi” are rhythmic tours de force, both highlighting one of the album’s idiosyncrasies: the three drummers — Larnell Lewis, Jamison Ross and Jason “JT” Thomas — all play on sections of the compositions but without overlapping.

Keyboardist Justin Stanton’s “Bad Kids to the Back,” a tune as mischievous as its name, also makes great use of the rotating rhythmists.

“Even Us” ends the album in cinematic fashion, as beautiful melodies from oud, violin and flugelhorn combine with Turkish percussion, piano and more for a soundtrack to much of the world’s existence.

Snarky Puppy is the real deal in concert and “Immigrance” has plenty of the liveliness and flow to emulate the live experience.