Like a lot of modern jazz bands, it isn’t easy to stick a genre tag on Snarky Puppy. At first listen to their latest album, “groundUP”, its easy to notice their blend of trip-hop cool with an orchestrated 60s retro-lounge sound that places them with today’s European nu jazz scene, but then other times they can get fairly heated along the lines of contemporary stateside jazz funksters like Lettuce and Soulive. Although regional musical stereotypes don’t always hold true, possibly the Pups can be seen as the “American” version of the nu jazz sound with a stateside tendency towards the bright and bold. On the plus side, this energetic approach can recall classic horn driven funky fusion groups like the Brecker Brothers, Billy Cobham and Tower of Power, but the more glib side can sound like a late night talk show house band keeping the audience awake during a commercial break.
Most of the music on here is more or less of a groove type nature with the Pups skillfully blending hip-hop, African pop, contemporary RnB, funk-jazz and other related rhythms. They top this with a sophisticated jazzy orchestra sound spiced with cool retro analog synthesizers and lots of quality solos from the horns, keys etc. No doubt Puppy is one of those rare jazz ensembles that has learned how to entertain folks outside the realm of jazz fandom and have no problem packing the dance floor at clubs and festivals all around the world. “GroundUP” may not be the most serious jazz recording, but it’s the quality of the arrangements and the solos that raise Snarky Puppy above the pack of groove-jazz wannabes.