Bassist Michael League’s tips on ensemble playing
By David Sands
September 9, 2015
Snarky Puppy has had a lot to wag its tail about lately.
The celebrated instrumental fusion band has come a long way since it first came together in Texas in 2004.
In May, the group released their first major label album, Sylva, through the respected jazz label Impulse! Records. The live recording is a collaboration between the New-York based musical collective and Holland’s Metropole Orkest orchestra. Divided into six movements, Snarky Puppy bassist and bandleader Michael League wrote the album’s music specifically for the two ensembles, using forests from around the world as his muse.
To top that off, the group kicked off its 2015 world tour on August 25 in Dallas with a special show that also featured a performance by renowned folk rocker David Crosby. This year’s musical odyssey will take them through the U.S., Canada, Japan, the U.K., continental Europe, Turkey and South America, before returning to the states for several shows that Cap off with a New Year’s Eve performance in NYC.
All this comes after a banner year in 2014, where the collective both earned an R&B Grammy with singer Lalah Hathaway for their version of Brenda Russell’s “Something” and charted number one on Itunes’ international Jazz Charts with their album We Like It Here.
In addition to making their music, the band group also has a passion for education and often holds workshops and clinics while touring to share insights with fans who happen to be fellow musicains.
Speaking to the Korean Herald last year in anticipation of a Seoul performance, Snarky Puppy’s bass-playing leader and chief composer, Michael League offered some great advice to aspiring musicians interested in the dynamics playing in an ensemble.
First off, he made it clear that he categorizes the band’s sound as instrumental, since it pulls from pop and folk music from around the world, especially American forms like funk, jazz and R&B. Then he remarked on the imporant role individuality plays in the group, with each member contributing to their collective creation.
“Each person influences the music by expressing themselves in their own way, and that influence stays with us even when they aren’t there,” he told the publication. “Everything we do with other artists stems from the vibe that we have established over 10 years of playing our own music. There’s so much freedom within the music for us to explore, and it’s allowed us to gel in a unique way.”
League also stressed the importance of improvisation in their work.
“One thing that is consistent in all of our shows is that we never play a song the same way twice, so every night is a unique experience for us as well as the crowd,” he said.
Tickets for Snarky Puppy’s 2015 world tour can be reserved through the group’s website.
Snarky Puppy plays first concert in Korea