Snarky Puppy, which is performing in the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest on Sunday, April 2, at 6 p.m. at the Santander Performing Arts Center, won the 2017 Grammy Award for Culcha Vulcha for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
It was the third Grammy for the improbably successful maximalist, stylistically unbound instrumental funk band.
Culcha Vulcha was Snarky Puppy’s first true studio record in many years with no studio audience or guest star collaborators. Returning to its roots as an instrumental ensemble, the group spent a week in the middle of a pecan orchard at the remote sonic Ranch Studios in Tomillo, Texas, just a five-minute walk from the Mexican border.
With no cameras, no audience, and the opportunity to overdub, they crafted an album much darker and moodier than any before it. The typical flash and bombastic moments that Snarky Puppy is known for have been replaced by a more patient, restrained, and sonically creative approach to both composition and performance.
Snarky Puppy is the jumbo-sized brainchild of bassist/composer Michael League, who shepherds a shifting collection of three-dozen musicians, referred to as “The Fam,” playing a variety of instruments including guitar, piano, keyboard, woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings.
Crossing several genres of music, League describes Snarky Puppy as “a pop band that improvises a lot, without vocals.” Snarky Puppy eloquently and gracefully blends various streams of sound, navigating the modern jazz fusion frontier with searing energy and fluid ease. One of the more versatile groups on the planet plays a virtuosic, high-energy blend of jazz, funk, hip-hop and more.
The last few years have brought dramatic changes for Snarky Puppy. After a decade of relentless touring and recording in all but complete obscurity, the Texas-bred/New York-based quasi-collective suddenly found itself held up by the press and the public as one of the major figures in the jazz world.