Have you ever heard of Snarky Puppy? Neither had I until earlier this week.
Thanks to an email from region resident Denise Lynch, a loyal reader of “The Local Scene” column each week in The Times, I recently turned on to this instrumental ensemble whose jazz, funk, R&B and rock hybrid sound is lightly seasoned with a variety of world music grooves with the flavors of Brazil, Puerto Rico, Africa and the Middle East.
Formed in 2005 by jazz students from the University of North Texas and currently based in New York, Snarky Puppy has a region connection in percussionist and original member Nate Werth, who credits his being a professional musician to having supportive parents, the positive influence of older brother Nick Werth, and many great teachers along the way.
“My brother Nick is a drummer, composer and producer. Growing up, he exposed me to so many different genres of music and worlds of percussion from the time I was 12,” said Werth, who started practicing drums for hours every day after school alongside his mentoring sibling.
“I’m a Region Rat,” proudly declared Werth. “I was born and raised in Dyer, attended Protsman Elementary, Kahler Middle School and Lake Central High School (Class of 2001), then moved to Texas in 2001 to pursue a degree in music performance at the University of Texas.” Weary of commuting between homes in Dallas and the Big Apple these last few years, Werth will move full time to NYC in June.”
Snarky Puppy’s mission – along with making the best music possible – is to support music education.
“Kahler and Lake Central’s music programs were cornerstones in my training to be a professional musician,” stressed Werth. “Fabricated, formulated, computer altered music has taken over most of the industry, and we (as a group) are making an attempt to put music back in the hands of the people. Music students need to understand the reality of the industry today and if we can inform them of our experiences they have a much better shot in the profession. I have had many teachers open up the door to their knowledge with humility and I am trying to do the same as my great teachers did for me. It also keeps me grounded and in touch with the younger generation.”
As time allows, Werth tries to return to the region during summer months to work with kids of Lake Central’s drumline, percussion section and band.
Snarky Puppy is as much a musical collective as a band, with about two dozen players in regular rotation. While the players change from project to project and tour to tour, the core group is consistent and features Grammy Award-winners Robert “Sput” Searight on drums, Shaun Martin on keys, organ prodigy Cory Henry, bassist/composer/band leader Michael League, and Werth.
The members’ collective resume includes working with such disparate artists as Erykah Badu, Marcus Miller, The Polyphonic Spree, Snoop Dogg, Morcheeba, Tower of Power, Justin Timberlake, Kenny Garrett, and Yo-Yo Ma, and many others.
Fresh from a successful tour of Europe, Snarky Puppy will lay down their unique sound at Reggies (2109 South State Street) in Chicago in a pair of back to back 17 and older, 7 p.m. performances Saturday and Sunday. The group’s last visit to the same venue for a single performance sold out show resulting in many fans being turned away. Ticket and show info: www.reggieslive.com or (312) 949-0120.
Snarky Puppy recently shared stages with Victor Wooten, Rudder, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Ari Hoenig, and Chicago’s own Umphrey’s McGee, among others.
Online music giant, iTunes helped fuel the buzz on the group when it ranked Snarky Puppy’s fifth and most recent album, “Ground Up,” in their Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2012. The “Ground up” CD and companion DVD was recorded live in front of a 40-person audience.