Review by Andrew Horan
Image Courtesy of TD Toronto Jazz Festival

It was fitting that Brooklyn, NYC jazz/funk/world fusion band Snarky Puppy played the Toronto Jazz Festival.

Band founder Michael League told the capacity crowd that one of their first international gigs was in Toronto at The Rex, a famous Queen Street West jazz bar. He said they were planning to head to the venue after their set was over just before launching into ‘The Outlier’ from their current release We Like It Here.

Due to the length of the band’s songs, they only managed to play eight or so during their two hour set. They were a bit over reliant on false endings and the songs seemed to follow the same structure of start out quiet with solos by different band members followed by a loud climax.

But the band made this structure work and there was enough variation to keep it interesting. Add their considerable chops to the mix and they managed to impress. Snarky Puppy kicked things off with a number that deftly blended classic 70’s-style jazz with a Latin undercurrent. It’s also great to see bands that still believe in drum solos and the solo half way through the song was the first of many. One number near the end of their set even sounded like it could have been used on the soundtrack to a 60’s spy movie.

The synchronization between the two drummers was absolutely jaw-dropping, especially during one song that had a definite Prince/80’s funk feel to it.

Each member of the band received their own moment in the spotlight. Their bandmates would often keep their playing to a minimum during a trumpet or keyboard solo, much to the audience’s delight.

When the band came back on stage for their two-song encore, League jokingly said that, “(We) have to do a fake last song before the real last song.”

The first song had an Afro-Jazz feel while the second showcased an almost psychedelic sound.

If there was another complaint to be had, besides the band’s reliance on the same song structure, it’s that their set was far too short! Clocking in at just under two hours, they could have played for another half hour and still easily made Toronto’s 11 o’clock curfew for outdoor shows.