Snarky Puppy Concert Review: Kansas City, MO, June 11, 2019

This was a very special show at the incredible Kauffman Center for Performing Arts that showcased a more restrained and mature side to the band, but it was also extremely funky which made the longer build-ups all the more worthwhile. Mark Lettieri in particular was on fire this show and he played some truly breathtaking solos. JT’s adaptive and sensitive drumming was brought to the foreground throughout, but also his undeniably tight and precise pocket. Particularly, in some songs he managed to seamlessly push the tempo into oblivion without it coming across as clumsy or forced; this was really amazing to witness even just with this audio recording. They managed to squeeze in 11 songs like the previous show in Bellvue, Colorado despite what the track listing says on the Live Snarky page. There was a hidden Embossed in this show after Palermo. This show has an amazing mix too which would largely be due to the Kauffman’s beautiful hardwood and fine fabric construction. The room had the perfect balance between being lively but also damped just enough to account for the more brash and punchy sections that the pup’s dynamic song rotation offers. This was a really beautiful set and is one of my all-time favorites from any year.


Kite – The show begins with a gentle but fast version of Kite. Surprisingly, Maz played the melody on flugelhorn rather than Zach on violin. Justin uses a very plain and reverberant Rhodes sound. When the main section comes in JT and Marcelo lay out completely and so does Bobby. This helps create a very gentle and sparse feel. Only Justin, Mike and Mark were playing so it was just a mix of the arpeggios and the bassline; very nice. Maz continues the melody on flugelhorn without accompaniment. The B section gets a washy synth sound from Justin and Mark uses the whammy bar on some high pitched chords. JT adds the cymbal heavy drum groove and the texture thickens dramatically. The rest of the horns join in and it immediately feels more ambient rather than acoustic. Bobby adds some behind-the-beat Moog melodies just before the solo. The solo section is super fast and funky. Mike plays the bassline with staccato notes and a heavy sub-octave sound. Justin playing continuous quavers on the keyboard (with an acoustic piano sound). Maz takes the solo here and gets into some semiquaver-heavy lines with lots of out-there note choices. Bobby adds some super subtle organ ‘stabs’ underneath and it really helps build up the intensity. Things fade into B section melody and JT and Bobby dial back the groove. Justin takes the second solo on Rhodes under a very sparse solo section. Mark is responsible for the chordal accompaniment here and he uses lots of volume swells. JT and Mike start down low energy wise but they pick it up just enough towards the end of the solo to give Justin some things to play off. Mike adds some chordal arpeggios on the bass and the tune fades out under Bobby’s organ.

Tarova – Justin switches over the Prophet and begins the main riff. Mike joins with some sub-octave bass playing and JT adds a very strong snare drum-based groove. Mark uses some very simple one-note comping here and Bobby begins his solo on Organ. Bobby shreds like usual and plays some of his classic, angular licks. He plays the melody behind the beat like usual with just JT’s snare drum alongside him. When the horn melody begins, Mike changes up the bassline to something a lot more syncopated and funky. The groove picks up so much here thanks to this tiny change. When the original album version groove emerges Mark adds some high-pitched, strongly picked arpeggios. He continues these jangly chords into the next section. For the unison section, Justin uses two hands; one on the prophet with a Mellotron-like sound and the other on the Rhodes with an offbeat harmonic rhythm compared to the synth. The solo section starts off half-time and gets an amazing solo from Chris on the Tenor. He gets into lots of heavily detached and displaced semiquaver lines and he uses a ton of his extremely high altissimo range. Mike thickens up the groove with the syncopated bassline similar to before and JT switches back to the regular groove. The outro is funky and gets lots of aggressive clavinet playing from Bobby. Just when things sound like the song will end Marcelo jumps in and plays a highly polyrhythmic solo and earns himself lots of cheers and screams from the crowd. The rest of the band does an amazing job keeping the pulse in check while Marcelo goes off. The actual outro gets a really cool descending, chromatic and syncopated bassline from Mike. Bobby closes with the clavinet like normal.

While We’re Young – This one starts off nice and gently and Bobby has some fun playing around with the melody. This tempo is a bit up from usual. The horns sound so powerful here in this mix. Mark adds some squeaky sounds in the background. A major difference with this version to one with McQueen or Bob on guitar is that Mark doesn’t use a slide for the melody but he instead uses lots of pitch bending and the whammy bar to best emulate the sound of the slide on the original song. The chorus section is incredibly lush with some Prophet, Rhodes and organ all playing simultaneously. Things fade quickly into the solo and Mike gets funky with the bassline. Zach Brock takes the solo here and it gets ‘outside’ very quickly. He uses a slight phaser and overdrive to highlight his articulation a little more clearly. He gets into lots of Dorian lines with a ton of added chromaticism. Mark adds some tasteful bluesy comping in the background and Bobby gets playful with the organ. Justin adds a slight synth drone and the section immediately becomes more energetic. Mike cues the key change with the horn line like usual. This time Mark uses a slide for the melody before taking a quick solo in between the spaces in the horn melody. JT and Mike keep the groove bubbling nicely away just before the fade-out on the final held chord.

Coven – This one starts like usual but with less reverb and delay from the horns. Mark adds a higher-pitched Ebow drone this time alongside the melody. JT brings in the normal groove afterwards and Mike takes double the time to come in with the bassline. Marcelo adds some beautiful shimmering percussion work here and I believe Mark adds another even higher-pitched drone on top. The bassline starts with Justin on the Rhodes accompanying Mike as soon as he starts playing instead of waiting another 4 bars. The melody comes in with a powerful blend of the Harmon muted trumpet from Maz and Zach on cvolin. Mark on guitar and Bob and Chris on sax add the lower octave to thicken the sound. Bobby adds some very subtle sustained chords on the organ here before laying out completely in the solo section. Bob takes the solo on tenor and takes his time under a very sparse solo section groove. JT barely plays anything here so the focus is really on Bob and the arpeggiated accompaniment from Mark and Justin. Mike changes up the bassline slightly and JT changes his approach to become a little stronger and up-front in the mix. At this moment, Bob gets more chromatic and starts shredding the semiquavers. The interlude section sadly has an almost inaudible melody from Zach on Violin; not sure why Mark didn’t play it here like usual to help bring it out more. But Justin’s synth is super lush. Justin also takes the solo on Rhodes and uses the highest notes he can to stay away from the mid-range heavy accompaniment. Mark brings it back in by playing the melody this time. Mike turns on the sub-octave for the outro bassline and Justin uses a very old school sounding synth patch.

Chonks – JT starts this one off immediately with the distinctive drum full. Bobby chooses a less saturated clavinet sound than usual and Zach Brock follows with the melody on violin with heaps of searing distortion, a lower octave and some phaser to round out his tone. The groove picks up here and gets really funky. The breakdown section between the 2 melodies gets some nice improvised melodies from Bobby and Justin chooses an awesome synth sound that’s very mellotron-like. The song becomes a little quieter for the solo section and Mark takes a solo with a fairly clean tone for a change; at least for the first few measures. He cranks it up significantly when he turns on his signature overdrive pedal. He sticks fairly closely to the tonality but occasionally adds a few major 3rds to give it a Mixolydian sound. A very nice short solo. The 2nd breakdown section is really wild with Justin choosing a nice experimental synth sound and Bobby goes nuts on the clav with some overdrive and wah. The groove bubbles away like usual. Chris harmonizes with the melody on the sax just before the final breakdown section. The breakdown is really heavy and grooves insanely hard thanks largely due to Bobby and JT. Justin continues using that wacky synth sound from before and Bobby gets chordal on the clavinet with a ton of overdrive which really brings up the intensity before the solo section. The new bassline begins and is played by Mike and Mark. Bobby and Justin wash out the soundscape with the organ and Prophet 6 respectively. Justin drops out for a while and Bobby takes the solo on the clavinet like usual. He plays really ‘out there this time but keeps it pretty short. He continues the solo going over the outro synth chords with a ton of feedback due to the insane amount of overdrive. A very high energy and creative performance. Mike says ‘wassup’ to Kansas City and introduces the band to the Argentinian groove called ‘Chacarera’ for the next song.

Palermo – With Marcelo playing with them, this song had sort of become a different Xavi as Mike often asks for crowd participation in a clapping rhythm. Bobby starts this one off with the organ and uses a variety of choppy textures by changing the position of the drawbars. Marcelo follows like usual on the bombo leguero playing his intricate polyrhythms. Justin adds some arpeggios on the Rhodes too but he varies them more than usual. Mike and JT come in with a very strong groove and Bobby stops playing the chords and instead creates some nice little melodic lines to go in between the spaces in the groove. Maz plays the melody on flugelhorn like usual and is accompanied by Bob on tenor sax and Chris on soprano sax with their intricate harmonies. Justin gets washy with both the Rhodes and Prophet here and JT tones down the intensity just before the main section and solo groove starts. Chris takes the solo on soprano here and uses its full, high pitched range. He plays lots of detached and displaced lines with some very fast glissandos. JT and Mike drop out halfway through when the rest of the horns come in with their melody. They join in once again and Chris’ solo continues before fading into Maz’s melody again. Only Marcelo and Maz play here at the start but Justin follows shortly after with some washy Rhodes chords. Bobby brings in the melody for the next section on his own. Mark adds some slide guitar to the melody and the band vamps on the B Major chord just before Marcelo gets some time alone with the audience. He takes a nice long solo with the bombo leguero and the timbales with the crowd laying it down.

Embossed – Marcelo starts this one off with some funky conga playing. Mark comes in with the slide and Ebow for the main melody and Bobby follows shortly after on Organ. Mark anticipates the melody when playing in unison with the horns. The groove settles down with the main section with Mike’s fancy octave based bassline. Things pick back up energy-wise once again with the B section as Bobby and Justin dial up some wacky sounds. Just before the solo section, the horns improvised some harmonies; some of which are kind of dissonant. Mark takes an adventurous and motivic solo under a sparser than usual solo section. He incorporates lots of chords and some dotted-quaver rhythms against the beat. He channels his inner Jeff Beck or Allan Holdsworth towards the end. Bobby gets super funky with the clavinet under the horn Soli. The groove becomes sparse again for a short while to bring out the complex horn melodies. The outro is high energy.

Thing of Gold – Justin plays a dissonant swelled Rhodes chord and then things start like usual. Mark adds some lower-pitched double stops and melodies in between Chris’ sax melody for something different. JT and Justin hold down the groove. Bobby gets playful with the Moog melody here and the groove thickens afterwards thanks to some very nice interplay from JT and Mark. Justin and Mike reharmonizes a few of the chords just before Bobby’s melody again. Mark adds some very tasteful chords to the washed-out horn melody. The solo section gets funky but also quite sparse as Justin and Bobby almost lay out. Mike and Mark palm mute their bassline, and JT’s drum groove is simpler and just quieter in general. Maz takes the solo on flugelhorn and plays some amazingly smooth and flowing lines with some occasional dissonance and chromaticism. Bobby gets funky on the clav and Justin stays out of his way. For the last few bars of Maz’s solo, Bobby switches over to the Organ to segue into the original melody again. Bobby takes the solo under a sparse solo section; I’m sensing a theme for this setlist. Bobby leaves more space than usual and plays more staccato phrases. He goes insane with the pitch-bend like usual, however. This was a really nice and quite a different sounding solo from Bobby. The groove fades out and Bobby goes all virtuosic just before his unaccompanied solo. He immediately goes bluesy, and he then plays the famous ‘lick’ multiple times in different keys. Lots of the people in the audience pick up on this and cheer madly for this! Things fade out gently under a very lush sea of cymbals from JT and Mike’s bass chords.

Tio Macaco – Marcelo starts this one off with a strong emphasis on the song’s original groove. The crowd begins clapping the rhythm very soon into the solo and Bullock soon begins the flute melody. This version has a groovy slow tempo to begin with but it picks up a little bit thanks to JT with the little percussion/drum break in the middle of the 2 melodies. Zach adds some harmonies to some of the hits. The solo section is pretty sparse groove wise as JT almost lays out. Bob starts off on tenor and things become very major oriented as far as the tonality is concerned. Chris continues on flute with lots of clipped notes and a percussive attack. Maz being such a great listener was able to match Chris’ last line and plays it in unison with him. Maz’s solo is the most dissonant sounding of the 2 people before, but he still follows the major tonality. Justin takes over with a raspier tone than usual and goes minor! He continues some of Maz’s dissonance but he doesn’t go as far away from the original tonality. Chris adds some dissonant whole-tone scale notes just before JT and Marcelo get into their duet. This is a nice extended solo from the two of them that features lots of tempo modulation and some super funky interplay between the two of them.

Even Us – This funky but mellow show ends on an even mellower and gentler note with this gorgeous tune. Mark starts this one off on guitar with a crotchet rhythm delay to help create a nice ambience. Justin comes in with the melody on the keyboard; he also uses his sparse hand to double it on the Rhodes as well. The second time through the head sees lots of gentle, Phrygian melodies from Bobby on the organ. Zach Brock comes in with the melody and the horns follow with their harmonies. The B section gets a nice subtle drum groove from JT which is complemented beautifully by the horn harmonies. The larger horn section means more harmonies which all helps to add to the serenity. After all of this, JT comes in with the more intense groove and the tempo speeds up a little bit. Bobby adds some very different melodies on the Moog than usual with simpler rhythms. The horns play their harmonies again and the ambience is continued. Zach takes the solo here and the groove gets turbocharged. Zach highlights the Phrygian tonality more clearly for the first section of his solo but he eventually moves towards a more minor hexatonic sound with a flat 6th. Towards the end, the band picks the energy and Zach shreds to maximum ability. Bobby starts wailing away on the organ and JT smashes the cymbals. Justin plays a busier keyboard part as well. The tempo skyrockets here. Things settle down into the B section which is nice and eerie to close the show. The audience asks for an encore and Mike then goes on to introduce the band.

Ready Wednesday (Encore) – The band picks up the energy with this Bill Laurance classic, but this is still quite a mellow rendition; probably to suit the room. Bobby starts this one quite differently on the clavinet with some wah and overdrive. He strays quite far from the piece’s original rhythm. Justin adds some high-pitched arpeggios and chords to compliment him. Mike adds some percussive bass sounds and JT creeps in with hi-hats. JT goes half-time for the main groove and Mark plays lots of funky semiquavers. For something different, Chris changes up some of the notes in the melody and even incorporates some effects pedals like the high-octave. The harmonic rhythm is still fairly different to the original song, but it’s super funky. The interlude section gets nice and spooky thanks to Justin’s keyboard playing. The newly arranged section before the solos speeds up tremendously thanks to JT who was demanding for more energy from the rest of the band. Mark continues his funky semiquaver comping alongside the regular Rhodes and organ chordal stabs. The larger horn section sounds so fat! Mark takes the solo and takes his time. He sticks closely to the melodic minor tonality. He plays some ridiculously tasty lines and follows a very dynamic arc. Towards the end, he is totally cooking. Mike changes the bassline up a fair bit and omits using an octave pedal. He focuses on the quaver and semiquaver rhythms of before and uses lots of chromatic notes. After a short break without drums with the horn melody, JT rises to the top and gives even more energy for the final 6 bars. Things fade out under Justin’s lovely keyboard playing and Mark and Bobby add some gorgeous textures to compliment him. The outro is eerie like usual thanks to that sustained major 3rd from the horns under the mostly minor tonality. An amazing end to an amazing show!


  • Bob Reynolds – Tenor Saxophone
  • Chris Bullock – Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Flute
  • Mike ‘Maz’ Maher – Trumpet and Flugelhorn
  • Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Keyboard, Rhodes, Prophet 6
  • Michael League – Bass
  • Mark Lettieri – Guitar
  • Zach Brock – Violin
  • Bobby Sparks – Organ, Clavinet, Moog, Mellotron
  • Marcelo Woloski – Percussion
  • Jason ‘JT’ Thomas – Drums

Sound Crew:

  • Matt Recchia – Engineering and Sound (front of house)
  • Michael Harrison – Monitors
  • Nic Hard – Mixing

About the Reviewer

Howdy readers. I’m Simon. Since 2016 I’ve slowly become enveloped in the world of Snarky Puppy. My obsession started a few minutes into the first song they played at the Melbourne 2017 show (Flood); my first live Snarky experience. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours listening to their albums, live shows and various interviews/articles with/on the band.

What really stuck with me after seeing them perform live was just how powerful – sonically – a large band can be when everything is orchestrated in such a way, especially with three keyboardists on stage. What also surprised me was just how much fun everyone appeared to be having on stage; I never ever expected so much jamming!

On, I will primarily be writing reviews of my vast and growing Live Snarky and album collection in hopes that my writing will inspire some purchases along the way. All of the money spent on or will go directly to Snarky Puppy’s members, which will in turn support them while they can continue to do what they do best. And… hopefully fund Family Dinner Volume 3.

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