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