REVIEW: Snarky Puppy

To say I’m excited for the new UMS season after seeing the season opener is an understatement. There was no better way to start the school year off right than with Snarky Puppy, a band with skills beyond words and energy beyond wonder.

The night started off with Alina Engibaryan, which was the best way it could’ve started. Michael League, Jason “JT” Thomas, and Chris Bullock joined her onstage, accompanying her as she played the piano and sang the words that found their way deep into your soul in the powerful yet sultry jazz that gave you chills. She sang songs from her newest album, “We Are,” and every word she sang, every note she played, felt very pure and raw and honest. There were moments of improvisation from the members of Snarky Puppy that added an extra layer of meaning to her songs.

With Alina Engibaryan setting the tone for the night, all 3000+ listeners in Hill Auditorium were ready for Snarky Puppy, and the high expectations Alina set on the stage were met the minute the first notes filled the auditorium. The nine amazingly talented musicians of Snarky Puppy took everyone through a rollercoaster of a night, speeding things up with unbelievable improvisational solos, and then slowing it down with that same fading echo. Each member had their moment: JT Thomas on the drums and Nate Werth on percussion had a captivating duet moment; Shaun Martin transformed the keyboard into something much more than 88 keys with his talk box skills; Jay Jennings and Chris Bullock added a range of flare and style on the trumpet and tenor saxophone; Justin Stanton jumped between the keyboards and his own trumpet, sometimes playing both at the same time; Chris McQueen, Zach Brock, and Michael League kept the night going on the guitar, violin, and bass with a flash of rhythm.

Playing new songs from their recent album “Immigrance”, the collective’s most recent tunes brought a whole new meaning to jazz fusion, and even introduced the style of Moroccan Gnawa to everyone. It was impossible to feel disconnected from the music the entire night, but the coolest moment of the night was when everyone started clapping, either in 3s or 4s. The entire Hill Auditorium clapped to form this funky rhythm, and it was in that moment that I felt more connected to all 3000+ people clapping with me, more connected to the members of Snarky Puppy onstage cueing and keeping us onbeat, and more connected to the music that reverberated positivity, peace, and joy through my entire body and the entire venue.

Snarky Puppy was exhilarating, and I have no hesitation calling it one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. With a dash of jazz, a hint of fusion, a kick of funk, and a whole lot of energy and passion, Snarky Puppy’s indescribable presence makes them unique, and their music that transcends all distinct categories makes up the core of Snarky Puppy and what makes them stand out from the crowd.

PREVIEW: Snarky Puppy

It’s a whole new school year, which means a new year of excellent musical performances. Kick off the 2019-2020 UMS season with Snarky Puppy, a Brooklyn-based funk and jazz collective that explores with improvisation the convergence of black and white American music culture. Don’t miss the three-time Grammy winners season opener at Hill Auditorium on Sunday, September 8, with Alina Engibaryan opening the show at 7:00 PM.

REVIEW: Cory Wong

On his latest tour, Cory Wong returned to Vulfpeck’s Ann Arbor home, playing to a sold-out crowd at The Blind Pig.

Emily C. Browning opened the stage. From New Zealand, her Spotify page says her music is intended as “an electric experience that you won’t know you were looking for until you hear it,” and that is exactly what we got. With a unique mix of jazz, soul, and funk, Emily’s style was refreshing and entertaining, and her own guitar skills were something of marvel. Starting her set with a couple covers and original songs that set the vibe for Cory Wong, his band came out and joined her for a couple more rocking songs before Cory Wong himself came onstage. The chemistry between Cory and Emily resulted in a phenomenal soundscape that had everyone swaying and jamming.

After a little break, Cory Wong and his band came back out, rocking some team athletic gear. Along with many, unbelievable guitar riffs, Cory put on a performance in between songs with a number of jokes that required crazy setups. He also emphasized his need to sell merch, playing several clips throughout the show. As the “millennial ambassador to smooth jazz,” he certainly infused an appreciation for smooth jazz and funk with his incredible songs and technique. Watching his extraordinary right hand picking technique in person was surreal, an impressive skill unrivaled by any other guitarist.

For a wonderful surprise, Vulfpeck’s singing guitarist, drummer, and syncopation master Theo Katzman joined Cory onstage for a funky collaboration. As Emily C. Browning came onstage again to close out the set with Cory, probably the best people that joined Cory’s performance were the two green inflatable tube men that summed up Cory’s personality, music, and stage presence.

The crowd was jamming the entire night, getting excited at the immense talent that Cory Wong and everyone in his band, particularly the drummer, brought to the stage. The excitement surrounding Cory Wong and his reputation as a guitarist is not one to be understated, and the electric funk energy that he brings is certainly contagious in the best of ways.

PREVIEW: Cory Wong

Vulfpeck is one of Ann Arbor’s greatest phenomena, and now, their funkiest guitarist is finding success with his solo project, the Cory Wong Band. Following the release of his latest solo album, The Optimist, Cory Wong is spreading his unique multi-instrumental rhythmic music across the country with his tour, which includes a stop at the Blind Pig on Saturday, January 19 at 9pm. Tickets are $20 and can be bought online at www.blindpigmusic.com.