Review (Fusion): “Something” - Snarky Puppy featuring Lalah Hathaway

I recently listened to a Youtube clip of Snarky Puppy featuring Lalah Hathaway on the track “Something.”  It was recommended to me by a friend on Facebook.  Another close friend has been hyped about Snarky Puppy for a couple years now and made every effort to tell me how he loves this band.  I checked them out initially and liked what I heard.  This latest clip is also well done.  By far the most rousing part of the song is when Lalah Hathaway sings chords with her voice.  I know about Tuvan throat singing and even chanting while singing two separate notes but to hear her use it musically (and I stress musically) was definitely a treat.  Many people use new musical conventions as a parlor trick sort of like a 3-year-old who learned a new word and wants to show off by constantly repeating it.  Lalah builds into her solo and then uses the chordal singing as an emphasis at the end.  The excitement of her performance is not lost on the drummer who has to get up off his throne (drum seats are called thrones) out of sheer joy.  

My overall take on the group which consists of a blend of several Grammy-winning gospel/hip hop/R&B musicians who have played with notable artists and rock musicians, is that the music is nicely arranged and played with high energy and feeling.  The performance is interestingly arranged to have the audience surrounded by the band.  The band leader and bassist Michael League “conducts” the band from inside this U-shaped setup and you can see his joyful responses to various musical nuances.  The audience gets to feel like they are part of the band and I’m sure for many of them it is a one-of a kind experience to feel the intimacy of a multipart ensemble from the stage.  

The music is a nice fusion of the gospel/rock/contemporary jazz sound but being a fan of Pat Metheny, Yellowjackets and Brian Blade Fellowship, I want to hear some more rhythmic variation and complexity.  I know I may catch some flak from my close friend but it’s like when you’ve had a gourmet 5-star meal and then eat a decent 3-star meal that has its moments.  The clip definitely has its moments but I wanted to, in the words of Sly Stone, be taken “higher.” Listening to the energy, watching the interplay between the musicians and seeing their love for what they do, however, will make you a fan of the group and I know seeing them live is definitely worth the experience.


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