Hey hey! I’m back with some more reviews of the Snarky Puppy Immigrance concerts. On October 22, 2019 the Pups commenced the FINAL European leg of the tour in Oslo, Norway! The lineup at the Sentrum Scene featured a full horn section with Mike “Maz” Maher, Chris Bullock, Bob Reynolds, and Justin Stanton doubling on trumpet and keyboards. Mark Lettieri was on guitar, Shaun Martin played keyboards, Marcelo Woloski handled percussion, Jason “JT” Thomas sat behind the drum kit, and the expert bassist and bandleader Michael League rounded it out. Forq opened for Snarky Puppy. Several other members joined throughout this month-long run including Chris McQueen, Jamison Ross, Zach Brock, Keita Ogawa, and Bobby Sparks. The great Mark Simmons also subbed on drums for a few shows in Germany at the end of October.
Track By Track
Kite – The band kicks it off with a mellow rendition of this gem from We Like It Here. After Maz plays the opening melody, Justin and Shaun double the descending piano riff. Marcelo shakes some rattles and JT adds cymbal swells for color. As the horn section delivers the verses, Michael’s syncopated bass line and Mark’s arpeggiated chords serve as a tonal foundation. Shaun sings on his vocoder with the horns’ harmonies before the solo section commences. Chris Bullock blows out a very moody solo on his tenor sax. His bright tone penetrates the band’s wall of sound for an incredible listening experience. Afterwards, Mark Lettieri delivers a lovely guitar solo with trace amounts of classical influence. The rest of the band comes down behind him, adjusting their volume and fills accordingly. Finally, Maz soars on the last refrain and Justin backs him on Fender Rhodes.
Chrysalis – JT sets up a filthy drum groove before Mark and Justin take the dual lead on guitar and Prophet synthesizer, respectively. Shaun injects some funky Moog bass. The half-time “hip-hop” section really cooks. Then Bob Reynolds gives it a go. As usual, it’s a great solo full of magnificent tone and impeccable phrasing. The outro proceeds as usual, although it lacks some steam without Bobby Sparks’s clavinet and organ finesse.
Semente – Marcelo starts it up with straw brushes on the timbau, bombo leguero, and mounted percussion. Chris plays the flute opening, followed closely by Maz and Bob. The rhythm section locks into a tight Brazilian-funk groove, and the horns nail the melodic lines. Bullock switches to the bass flute, but he plays the melody in a different transposition. He lays out and Shaun begins a piano solo. Shaun’s ideas weave in and out of one another effortlessly, and they range from smooth modern jazz licks to thundering chromatic runs – and a hilarious quote of the theme from “The Twilight Zone!” JT ramps up his drumming as well. After the final recap, Maz climbs up the octave before the fade-out.
Bigly Strictness – Michael League fires up the Moog sub-bass for this one! Mark wails on the guitar, Justin lays down the Prophet chords, Marcelo goes to town on his hand drums, and JT keeps the beat firmly grounded. Chris also uses the octave effect pedal on his sax for the first verse. After the second verse, Justin takes a Minimoog synthesizer solo that’s fun, quirky, and concise. Mark shreds in the second vamp and takes us on a trip to Bluesville, USA. I definitely hear some Stevie Ray Vaughan influence in his playing – it’s gritty, technical, and awe-inspiring. In the final section, Maz gives a trumpet master class using his “wah” effect. After a huge ovation, Michael welcomes the Norwegian audience and quickly plugs the Immigrance album.
Bad Kids to the Back – JT and Marcelo establish a driving backbeat right off the bat. Shaun, Michael, and Mark sync up on the offbeat chordal stabs. Chris, Maz, and Bob play the lines with power and precision. Once the solo vamp begins, Justin trills on the trumpet. His mellow sound prompts the band to back down a hair. Justin’s solo packs in lots of unique ideas including swung-sixteenths, smooth long tones, and crystal-clear notes in the upper register. After the dual guitar-synth lead section, the horns come back with their counterline. Then JT steps into the spotlight with a stellar drum solo. He plays sparsely at first, but then he increases the amount of notes per phrase. JT bends time and space with a crazy cymbal-stack/snare/kick pattern before unleashing some lightspeed tom fills. Everyone returns for the final chorus, and the crowd roars its approval.
Tarova – Justin sets up the opening chords on the Prophet. Shaun hypes up the crowd by chanting “Oslo, Norway” on the talkbox during his solo. In past Immigrance concerts, Shaun would use his talkbox to duel with Bobby Sparks on the Hammond B-3 organ. This time, it’s all Shaun which is different but still awesome! The horn shout out the verses and chorus, but Mark’s funky guitar comping nearly steals the show. During the bridge, Shaun’s talkbox gets gummed up so Mark handles most of the intricate melody. Then Chris Bullock burns through the solo section with his tenor sax. He bases his entire solo around one melodic motif with the concert pitches of F & B-flat (which are G & C in the key for B-flat tenor sax). As usual, Chris goes all-out with the syncopated rhythms, piercing altissimo, and wild chromatic runs. After his solo wraps up, the band ends it a bit differently than usual. Michael plays the last lick by himself, slows it down, and then the band sustains the last chord.
Thing of Gold – Justin sets it up on Fender Rhodes. Chris plays the first melody, and JT and Marcelo conjure up a laid-back jungle beat behind him. Shaun gets a turn with the famous melody on the Moog before the others hop on for the ride. Marcelo’s hand drumming cuts through the mix. Next, Shaun gets the crowd to sing the melody just before the E-flat minor solo section. Bob Reynolds leaps forth with a brief but lyrical solo. The notes are flying everywhere, but at a controlled pace and with deliberate intention. He really knows how to make his saxophone sing! Shaun takes it home and brings the tune to another level. Even after the last chord, he continues to stretch out on his Moog. He programs his synth so that each phrase repeats on a delay, making for a really incredible effect. After the last notes die away, Michael introduces Shaun to the delighted crowd. “Don’t encourage him,” Michael warns, which prompts the crowd to cheer even louder for Shaun’s antics.
Xavi – Michael teaches his 4:3 polyrhythm lesson to the audience, and they nail it pretty quickly to his amusement: “That was uncommonly good.” Marcelo helps them out with his Moroccan groove on the high-pitched mounted drums. Then the band launches into “Xavi.” JT, Marcelo, and Michael build a groove and Chris plays the first verse on the bass flute. For the second verse, Maz and Justin use mutes in their trumpets. Then Mark takes the first solo. It’s chock-full of gritty tone, rapid arpeggios, and effective usage of the whammy bar. Maz proceeds with the second solo, and hits a home run with deft double tonguing, remarkable bebop riffs, and some very bold note choices. Next, the crowd claps the 4:3 polyrhythm over Marcelo and JT’s groove. Bullock delivers the flute interlude before Justin treats everyone to a Fender Rhodes solo. Once again, Justin crushes it without breaking a sweat. He begins with some insane runs almost immediately, and the notes keep hopping from his keyboard like Mexican jumping beans. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some reharmonization…and Justin tosses in a bunch of it towards the end of his solo. Finally, Snarky Puppy plays the outro perfectly to close the main set. Michael thanks the Oslo crowd and jokingly says, “One hour of solo bass, here we go!” He talks about the GroundUp Music Festival and introduces the band and crew members. Mixing engineer Neil McIntosh gets a huge ovation and a special chant from the crowd, too!
What About Me? (Encore) – The band launches into this classic Snarky Puppy tune as the encore. It proceeds as normal, with the inclusion of the slowed opening and the accelerated transition. During the solo vamp, all three horns solo together. Yes folks, that’s right! Chris Bullock, Bob Reynolds, and Maz trade fours and play simultaneously! JT elevates it with some fantastic drumming. It’s a smorgasbord of mind-blowing technique and top-tier jazz musicianship. Finally, JT closes the show with another spectacular drum solo. Michael pins it down with a steady bass line, and Justin adds some ascending Rhodes chords to the stew. After the outro, Michael thanks the audience for coming and says goodnight.
What a strong start to the last leg of the Immigrance tour! After two weeks off, the Pups came to Europe feeling fresh and ready to boogie. The fans came in with high energy and the band gave it right back. Fans of Justin Stanton, Mark Lettieri, and Shaun Martin should definitely check out this show because they all get three solo opportunities…and they slay each one! My selected standout tracks would be “Kite,” “Bigly Strictness,” “Bad Kids to the Back,” “Xavi,” and “What About Me.”
Bob Reynolds – saxophone
Chris Bullock – tenor sax, flute, and alto flute
Mike “Maz” Maher – trumpet and flugelhorn
Justin Stanton – trumpet and keyboards
Shaun Martin – keyboards
Mark Lettieri – guitar
Michael League – bass
Jasoon “JT” Thomas – drums
Marcelo Woloski – percussion
Michael Harrison – engineering and sound (front of house)
Matt Recchia – monitors
Neil Macintosh- mixing