SNARKY PUPPY: ‘Culcha Vulcha’ (Ground Up/Decca)

  • Home
  • Reviews
  • SNARKY PUPPY: ‘Culcha Vulcha’ (Ground Up/Decca)

After last year’s Grammy-grabbing orchestral opus, ‘Sylva,’ and the recent guest vocalist album, ‘Family Dinner Vol. 2,’ which dropped earlier this year, the prolific and indefatigable jazz-funk aggregation led by guitarist Michael League are back with a blindingly brilliant band-only offering that is arguably their best yet. It’s packed with strong material, imaginative arrangements, top-notch soloing, and, of course, super-tight, ultra-cohesive ensemble work. The brass and woodwind section playing is particularly ear-grabbing, especially on the jaunty, exotic-sounding folk-influenced ‘Semente’ with its infectious pulse. By contrast, the moody ‘Gemini’ is a guitar-driven piece with a filmic ambience and ‘Grown Folks’ is a tight chunk of funk punctuated by spiky muted trumpet and mellow Rhodes fills. The groove, as with most Snarky Puppy tunes, is irresistible. The band can also do quietly atmospheric pieces with aplomb, as the gentle, bubbling ‘Beep Box’ illustrates. But if it’s grooves you want, then ‘Go,’ with its churning rhythms, buoyant horn licks and sweeping keys, hits the spot nicely. But it’s not a simple case of standard, by-the-numbers funk – it’s a highly sophisticated cut characterised by plenty of sonic light and shade and unusual textures. It’s ingeniously imaginative, in fact, which is a description that sums up this magnificent album as a whole. Stupendous stuff from a band whose bite is every bit as loud as its bark.

(CW) 4/5