Snarky Puppy, Empire Central, GroundUp Music ****

Ultimate groove band Snarky Puppy - the 21st century Weather Report without in any way being a clone or even the same stylistically but in the way they similarly radiate out to the wider world from a jazz-rock fusion core - are at their best on …

Published: 14 Sep 2022. Updated: 12 days.

Ultimate groove band Snarky Puppy - the 21st century Weather Report without in any way being a clone or even the same stylistically but in the way they similarly radiate out to the wider world from a jazz-rock fusion core - are at their best on Empire Central. For what it's worth we think it's even better than our favourite of their albums to date which was 2015's Sylva where the emphasis was more firmly on the orchestral. Not at all shy about promoting themselves or indeed beefing up their sound as far as it will go they are one of the biggest crossover successes in jazz in recent years and remain credible no matter how accessibly they present themselves.

Favourite track by a mile is the Pat Metheny Group-like frisson you get on the brilliant feel of the riffing on 'Free Fall'. Surely Lyle Mays must be smiling down from on high if this reaches his celestial shell-like. But if the album overall has a flaw, and it does in certain passages, it's the grandiosity you get say on a track like 'Portal' which is in the opening motif like an alternative vision of The West Wing type of TV grand musical spectacle approach. We love The West Wing. Maybe the future is more televisual for Snarky Puppy but does not work so well in context here. And if so you fear the extra compromises needed to go the full monty in that direction. Overall though the Snarky Puppy approach remains a sound and unique proposition that you simply can't ignore on this evidence. And there's a whole grab bag of funky selections here to choose from into the bargain.

Out on 30 September

Michael League bass guitarist leader of Snarky Puppy, top, Listen to a selection of album tracks streaming so far above. Snarky Puppy play Wembley Arena (the OVO Arena) on 7 October

Photo: Brian Friedman

Tags: 1 of 6 of the latest album and track reviews

Leverton Fox, In The Flicker, Not Applicable ****

Electronica is quite a big area within an affinity for any forward looking jazz listener these days certainly jump started once again by Floating Points last year. But what the long running Leverton Fox trio project does is completely different and …

Published: 14 Sep 2022. Updated: 13 days.

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Electronica is quite a big area within an affinity for any forward looking jazz listener these days certainly jump started once again by Floating Points last year. But what the long running Leverton Fox trio project does is completely different and a leap away from spiritual sounds. Instead it is more an environmental homage.

Jazz trumpeter and electronica musician Alex Bonney - with another sound engineer hat on the consultant used for the sonic makeover of the Vortex recently and also a valued collaborator with Sun Chung on the South Korean producer's new Red Hook label - drummer Tim Giles and electronics personage Isambard Khroustaliov (Sam Britton) use Sussex woodland outdoors field recordings that prove significant here in the Leverton Fox latest iteration of the by now familiar vulpine sound.

Serene pervasively 'Amethyst Deceiver' yet again with this band recalls an In a Silent Way mood given the way the trumpet floats and progresses in stately fashion. But the woodland reacts in the guise of a mysterious, ever changing incrementally, chorus as a mainly benevolent if at times ambivalently ominous foil.

The use of analogue synths makes this sound untechnological in a way in other words what the overall effect becomes unlike a lot in the genre is not at all obviously manufactured.

A restful, stimulating listen where experimentation becomes meaningfully site specific it's a decade since we saw the band reviewing the band live at the Vortex for Jazzwise in a very well put together double bill with Sons of Kemet. That sound heard in 2012 still has validity. The frank amalgam of improv-friendly electronica that avoids the tired ticks and clichés of click-glitch nebulousness still counts for something.

Leverton Fox play an In the Flicker launch surround sound gig complete with light show at iklectic, London on 19 October. See also: Not Applicable - on Bandcamp