Former UNT students jazz up country with Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy, the band with a sweet name and an even sweeter sound, was formed in Denton by several University of North Texas jazz studies program graduates in 2004. Since then, the instrumental jazz group has grown to encompass over a dozen members, release three albums and go on more than a few tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Michael League, the 24-year-old musician who conceptually leads the band but shies away from the title of frontman, affectionately refers to the collective membership as “the pups.”

“The group is kind of like a family, with most of its members in Dallas and two of them in New York,” League said. “Almost everyone in the group is a multi-instrumentalist. You will see a different amalgamation of the same 20 people every time you see us play.”

Their lively dynamic on stage illustrates a complete freedom from inhibition that most musicians strive to reach in the comfort of their own bedroom. It is hard not to be fascinated by 12 musicians who can tie so many layers and instruments into such a tight sound and still chalk up part of their performance to improvisation.

What: Snarky Puppy with Oso Closo
and Parachute Musical
When: 9 p.m. Feb. 12
Where: The Boiler Room
101 W. Hickory St., Denton
Admission: 18 and over

League, who acts as the band’s bassist and composer, said that retaining a song’s core message while playing it a little differently every night is the only way that music can stay fresh.

“I compose everything thoroughly and [include] opportunities for improvisation, where [some] people are playing things note-for-note and other people have complete freedom. But even with the parts that I compose, once the individual players become comfortable with that, they embellish and change the part on their own,” League said.

League described the message behind their songs as largely circumstantial, detailing an experience or an observation.

“It’s a double-edged sword. On one end, the new record is called ‘Bring Us The Bright’ because the world is in need of light – there’s so much darkness,” League said. “The wars and oppression that are going unaided, and the overall mood of people in the world seems to be very dim, so that’s kind of the optimistic take on the title.”

This band is made up of a desire to spread collective responsibility and a strong underlying passion for music. Do your ears a favor and catch Snarky Puppy before they embark on their next national tour in late February.