Snarky Puppy Concert Review: Cleveland, May 16, 2019

It’s been a while since the last LiveSnarky recap, but I’m hoping this will become the first of many new show reviews. writer Doug Chew and myself have decided to review every show from Live Snarky on the 2 year anniversary of the show. As of today/tonight 2 years ago, Snarky Puppy performed in Cleveland, Ohio at the beautiful Masonic Auditorium; a lively and very acoustic room for the second part of the seven-month long Immigrance tour. The pups played lots of Immigrance tunes and a few of the hits, and were joined by special guests Weedie Braimah and Jamie Haddad on percussion from Bokante on Tio Macaco and Xavi. This was a very good show with lots of memorable moments. My personal highlights would be ‘Embossed,’ ‘Thing of Gold’ and ‘What About Me?’


Even Us – Things start off with Even Us, which was becoming a popular opener. McQueen opens the show on guitar with a dry and unaffected guitar tone; sticking closely to the roots of the original oud intro of the album version. Shaun adds his delicate piano melody and Mike adds some very sparse, but powerful low end. Chris Bullock enters with a wash of reverb and delay before things simmer back down again. This time Bobby adds some delicate melodic minor licks on the organ and Mike joins in with some bass licks. Jamison picks up the groove on the final head before the solos, and Bullock, Maz and Justin add some colours with their lovely harmonies. The solo section gets quite funky and Justin begins his trumpet solo with quotations of Bobby’s staccato Moog melodies. Justin’s solo is a bit more adventurous than usual I feel as he spends quite a lot of time in his upper register and he takes up a bit more space in the mix; really nice to hear. Things simmer down into the dark and brooding outro.

Chrysalis – The iconic drum intro is a huge change in pace. Bobby uses his signature distorted clavinet with the wah pedal for maximum impact. McQueen doubles the melody down low with a thick, synth-like octave fuzz. He then uses some tremolo for the interlude and gets textural. The B section is always such a nice change of pace with that amazing key change. Chris Bullock takes the solo with an octave up and chorus effect with a flowing and linear solo. The trumpet accompaniment is a nice touch too; something I don’t hear too often on this tune. After the solo, McQueen and Bobby get funky. A nice, short rendition.

Bad Kids to the Back – Things really pick up here. Justin’s tune was becoming a fan favourite from the new album. McQueen uses the wah for the intro, but other than that things are pretty standard and follows the album version closely. Maz takes the solo here, without any effects, and things are motivic and ‘bluesy’ and ‘boppy.’ Nice to hear this side of his playing. The accompaniment is splendid also with Bobby’s tasteful organ playing and McQueen’s amazing textures and sonic exploration. Jamison absolutely destroys the drum set during his solo. He begins immediately with brisk subdivisions and some intricate polyrhythms but he always manages to bring it back ‘home.’ Some really special playing from him there. Afterwards, Mike says hello and thanks House of Waters for opening. He introduces Chris McQueen and his song Coven to the audience.

Coven – Things settle down for a moment here with this amazing spacey tune, however it’s not exactly lacking energy. Tempo wise it’s a bit faster than usual and the keyboard section’s marvelous comping gets highlighted. McQueen as usual shines here with his textural comping. Shaun takes a fairly short solo and he gets chromatic before leading into the bridge section. Justin takes another short solo on Rhodes and quotes a bit from Miles Davis’ ‘Four’ on the outro. The outro gets playful under Jamison’s playing.

Embossed – Embossed immediately leads with the distinctive drum and percussion intro and the edgy and dark slide guitar tone for the melody. Things are pretty up-tempo here but the ambience still remains. Mike’s plectrum bassline really helps propel the groove of the tune into the high energy solo section. McQueen gets really dissonant and weird on this song, and it’s so amazing and interesting to listen to. He uses the overtones generated by the fuzz to play ring-modulator type sounding chords. These chords weren’t even in the key! But it doesn’t matter, the sparse bassline allows for extreme manipulation of the harmony. Some of the best playing from Chris here on this version of Embossed. He goes full power towards the end with an abundance of chromatic lines. A really amazing extended guitar solo. Things are pretty standard to finish with the exception of some really cool arpeggios from Justin on the Rhodes.

Grown Folks – Always nice to hear this tune, it’s a favourite of mine from the Culcha Vulcha album. Bobby and the keys get really funky for the intro. Justin takes a tiny, but super melodic solo on Rhodes over the linking section. Bobby takes the first proper solo on the overdriven/wah-wah clavinet and he takes us on a tour of Texas. He gets pretty experimental with lots of diminished licks and sudden changes in register. When the Rhodes chords come in he plays longer phrases and ‘sings’ over the top. The following C minor section sees Bobby continue his brilliance. Shaun also sings on the outro with some amazing chromatic and symmetrical lines with his Moog. Justin uses his Prophet synthesizer to give the outro an 80’s electro-funk sound; real cool. Mike invites Weedie Braimah up to the stage. The audience didn’t cheer particularly loudly, probably unaware of who he is. Mike says they’ll cheer really loudly after they hear him play.

Tio Macaco – A brisk paced version that begins with a percussion intro from Nate? I’m not too sure. Maybe both Nate and Weedie played… Regardless, it was tremendous. The harmonic instruments refrain from playing until the solo’s, except McQueen, but he sounded like a percussionist anyway. Bullock solo’s first on the flute using a very high register and lots of reverb. Maz joins him for a few bars at the end of his solo with some very rhythmic playing. Justin joins in towards the end playing the same rhythm as Maz but harmonised. Both Justin and Maz shred here. They compliment each other so well. The drum outro is a bit shorter than usual, but the percussion trio get into some really cool ideas.

Thing of Gold – Justin leads this one off, followed by Bullock, Jamison, Nate and McQueen. The call and response between the sax and guitar is always very tasteful. Shaun doesn’t ask the audience to sing the melody for a change so he instead uses a mellow sounding Moog patch. The groove picks up a bit. The chorus section is super lush and serene before leading into a super heavy solo section with a different bassline to normal. Chris Bullock solos on tenor here with some really awesome lines. Justin Stanton adds some really incredible chords to the bassline, and it gives the whole section a completely different character. Shaun shows off his versatility and virtuosity in his Moog solo and the outro solo. Things settle right down towards the end with Justin’s amazing Rhodes swells and Jamison’s drums.

What About Me? – Probably my favorite version of ‘What About Me?’ from 2019! The energy is so addictive, and everyone sounded like they were having fun experimenting with things. Chris McQueen starts off aggressively with the riff and the crowd goes nuts. He plays around with the melody quite a bit too, and uses a wah sound. Justin is given the keys to the solo section, and he and Jamison get super funky under a massive synth bass sound. Justin suddenly brought in some washy rhodes chords which completely revamped the solo section. After the rest of the band returns, Justin shreds some Rhodes, leaving the synth behind. Mike introduces everyone before Jamison is left alone with Mike laying down the bass. Jamo starts relatively quietly for a change, but he brings it back up, and then totally destroys the kit! Really special version.

Xavi (Encore) – Mike gets the audience to participate in the 4:3 polyrhythm clapping experiment, and Cleveland does quite well. “First try” Mike says. Mike invites amazing percussionist Jamie Haddad, member of Bokante and resident of Cleveland. The tune is faster than usual, but it settles down a little later. The added percussion is really noticeable and helps the tune glide along. Maz takes the first solo on wah trumpet and he gets dissonant with some spacious and large intervallic ideas. Lots of chromaticism towards the end of the solo, but Maz still leaves lots of space to highlight the amazing groove and bassline. The second solo section sees a solo from Bobby on his clavinet and he too gets weird! Lots of continuous lines, and some really nice use of dissonance too. Afterwards, there is a percussion break featuring Jamie, Nate and I’m assuming Weeide as well although he wasn’t formally introduced this time. After the interlude with Bullock’s flute melody, Justin picks it up on Rhodes for the final solo of the night. Mason Davis joins Mike on the krakebs for the ending. The end of this tune is always such a party, and even more so with 5 percussionists + Jamison on drums.


Chris Bullock – Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Bass Flute
Mike ‘Maz’ Maher – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Rhodes, Synth
Michael League – Bass
Chris McQueen – Guitar
Bobby Sparks – Organ, Moog, Clavinet
Shaun Martin – Keyboards, Moog, Mellotron
Nate Werth – Percussion
Jamison Ross – Drums

Sound crew:
Matt Rechia – engineering and sound (front of house)
Michael Harrison – monitors
Nic Hard – mixing


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