Your Complete Guide to Snarky Puppy Side Projects

Brooklyn-based jazz ensemble, Snarky Puppy, has garnered well-deserved critical and popular acclaim over the past decade with virtuosic master recordings and live performances. Most recently, The Recording Academy recognized Snarky Puppy’s Culcha Vulcha with a Grammy nomination for “Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.” If the band wins the nomination at the 59th Annual Awards ceremony, this will mark its third Grammy in four years and the second in this category. By winning the hearts of fans, the attention of critics, and the nominations of award ceremonies, Snarky Puppy has developed a significant cult following since its inception in 2004. Slightly different than your conventional band, Snarky Puppy is a unique rotating ensemble of about 40 different musicians lead by bassist, composer, and producer Mike League. This revolving cast of musicians thus gives way to an abundant crop of quality Snarky Puppy side projects. We’re big supporters of Snarky Puppy here at CEG and frequently work with the ensemble, its side projects, and its individual musicians by hosting shows in and around New York City. To help simplify the growing collection of stellar affiliated Snarky Puppy outfits, we’ve organized a complete guide to Snarky Puppy side projects. As a closing remark, congratulations to the band for selling out each of its New Year’s Eve shows at Irving Plaza! Photos and a Mike League interview are coming soon.

Ghost-Note

Formed in 2015 by Snarky Puppy percussionists Robert “Sput” Searight and Nate Werth, Ghost-Note is a rhythmically driven side project that welds the sounds of jazz, hip-hop and funk. Ghost-Note released its debut album, Fortified, in 2015 via RSVP Records in affiliation with Ropeadope Records (check it out here). Upon its release, Fortified topped the iTunes Jazz Chart and received raving reviews: “Together, these musicians fuse worlds of percussion with neck breaking and booty shaking rhythms, creating an explosive pulse and a night of energetic, unforgettable musical madness.”

Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles

Lead by Snarky Puppy’s charismatic jazz organist and pianist, Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles enjoyed a wildly successful year in 2016. After a busy European Tour that saw the band in cities like Monaco and London, The Funk Apostles returned to their home base of Brooklyn in Thanksgiving to a near sold-out crowd. “A collective of funk-crazed soothsayers,” and a “powerful, slick, and raucous new brand of funk,” are just a couple different ways music enthusiasts have described Henry’s young band. Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles are slated to return to Brooklyn on Friday, February 10th. Get your tickets here, and check out this electric rendition of Prince’s “1999.”

Bill Laurance Group

Similar to Cory Henry, Bill Laurance is a celebrated keys player and original member of Snarky Puppy. In 2014, Laurance released his debut album, Flint, which soared straight to No. 1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts. After Snarky Puppy formed its independent label, GroundUP Music, Laurance released a follow up album, Swift, through the band’s young imprint. In addition to a fruitful solo career, Laurance is also deeply entrenched in the dance world and has performed with companies like Alvin Ailey, Ballet Rambert, and the English National Ballet. Laurance has already scheduled a full U.S. solo tour in February, and will perform at The Hall at MP in Brooklyn on Thursday, February  2nd as part of CEG’s Mardi Gras Madness II celebration. (tickets)

Forq

Comprised of Henry Hey (keys, Rudder), Chris McQueen (guitar, Snarky Puppy), Mike League (bass, Snarky Puppy), and Jason “JT” Thomas (drums, Snarky Puppy), Forq was founded in 2014 and released its eponymous debut album via GroundUP Music later that year. The New York-based quartet then followed up with its second album, Batch, in late 2015. Described as a “Texas-meets-Manhattan cocktail that has a created a sound rich in both musical intelligence and undeniable pocket,” Forq is scheduled to perform for the first time in over a year in February at Snarky Puppy’s upcoming GroundUP Music Festival on Miami Beach. (tickets)

Mark Lettieri Trio

Mark Lettieri is a guitarist, composer, and producer originally from Northern California who moved to Texas to study at Texas Christian University. While working as a professional musician in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex’s gospel and R&B scenes after graduation, Lettieri joined Snarky Puppy in 2008. As a composer and bandleader independent of Snarky Puppy, he’s released three albums: Knows in 2011, Futurefun in 2013, and most recently Spark and Echo in 2016. “The songs have hard grooves that go for the heart but are chock full of interesting chord changes and progressions that appeal to the head,” writes Something Else Reviews about Lettieri’s latest album, “a little like a certain band Lettieri is a member of by the name of Snarky Puppy.” The Mark Lettieri Trio is scheduled to perform two gigs in late January in California. More information here.

JAZZ is PHSH

Inspired by the popular Grateful Dead tribute, Jazz is Dead, Adam and Matthew Chase founded JAZZ is PHSH in 2015 to honor the historic catalogue of Phish with a jazzy perspective. Snarky Puppy saxophonist Chris Bullock is a member of the tribute’s revolving cast of musician, and he recently performed two special Thanksgiving shows with the group at the Cutting Room in New York City. After selling out multiple venues across the East Coast this winter, JAZZ is PHSH will make its Colorado debut with three consecutive performances in the Centennial State. More information here, and check out our interview with JAZZ is PHSH / Dave Matthews Band saxophonist, Jeff Coffin.

Banda Magda

Fronted by Greek-born singer, accordionist, and composer Magda Giannikou, Banda Magda is New York-based jazz outfit that incorporates Greek dance rhythms and samba beats into its compositions. Snarky Puppy-mates Mike League (bass), Chris Bullock (sax), Justin Stanton (keys, trumpet), Bob Lanzetti (electric guitar), Mike “Maz” Maher (trumpet), Keita Ogawa (percussion), Marcelo Woloski (percussion) are each members of Banda Magda’s rotating roster of musicians. Magda was a featured performer and vocalist on Snarky Puppy’s celebrated album Family Dinner, Volume 1, and has remained a close musical comrade since that release. Like several of these Snarky Puppy side projects, Banda Magda is scheduled to perform at the GroundUP Music Festival in February on Miami Beach, following a stellar set opening for Snarky Puppy on New Year’s Eve.

Maz

Mike ‘Maz’ Maher typically plays the trumpet with Snarky Puppy, but in his band, Maz, he sets down his instrument to sing as the featured vocalist. Maher started the band in 2009 out of a desire to return to his musical routes as a singer / songwriter and soon thereafter released the band’s debut EP, Maz, in 2012. Soon after Maz began opening for Snarky Puppy in venues all across the globe as well as playing shows in his hometown of Brooklyn. This October Maz followed up on its 2012 record with Idealist, released through GroundUP Music. After a successful eight stop Fall Tour, Maz will join Snarky Puppy and its numerous side projects in Miami Beach in February at the GroundUP Music Festival. In addition to Maher, Snarky Puppy members Cory Henry (keys), Bobby Sparks (keys), Bob Lanzetti (guitar), Justin Stanton (keys), Mike League (bass), Robert “Sput” Searight (drums), Jason “JT” Thomas (drums), and Nate Werth (percussion) are also members of Maz.

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