Snarky Puppy and GoGo Penguin: The New Standards of Jazz?

By Thomas Swan on Mar 20, 2016 01:49 AM EDT

What is Jazz, actually? No, you don't have to answer that question because it is an unanswerable one, all be it theoretical one. Throughout its tracable history, the burden of this question has plagued many, mostly those who have tried to answer it in an attempt to exclude somebody else. The argument is about as old as jazz music itself and with the emergence of two new popular acts, GoGo Penguin and Snarky Puppy, that debate has been reenergized once again. Both bands have attained a popularity and complaints about being filed in the jazz genre.

Snarky Puppy was formed in Denton Texas in 2004 and is more of a loose conglomerate than a band. Featuring up to 40 members at a time, musicians funnel in and out of the band and find work as session musicians for various other acts. According to Wikipedia, "The core touring unit is Michael League, Robert "Sput" Searight, Nate Werth, Larnell Lewis, Shaun Martin, Cory Henry, Justin Stanton, Bill Laurance, Bob Lanzetti, Chris McQueen, Mark Lettieri, Mike Maher and Chris Bullock."

All told the band has released 4 albums and popular buzz and critical acclaim have followed. According to UDiscoverMusic, "Their 200 plus concerts a year are drawing larger and larger crowds and with critical buzz beginning to build."

A similar story is playing out with Manchester England's GoGo Penguin, although there are only three of them. However, be that as it may, they have pushed the definition of jazz to its fullest. Wikipedia says this about GoGo Penguin's musical style, "They are known for their skittering break-beats, infectious piano melodies, powerful and propulsive basslines, and anthemic riffs. They compose and perform as a unit, there is no leader, instead each of them shares ideas and themes from each other. Their music defies the one label categorisation, incorporating elements of electronica, trip-hop, jazz, rock and classical music to carve out a unique sound that is wholly their own."

What is jazz? The very definition has shifted and new styles have been accepted, from Scott Joplin's ragtime piano to Stan Getz's samba to Miles Davis' jazz fusion. It is the very beauty of jazz.

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TagsSnarky Puppy, GoGo Penguin, Jazz, Jazz Standards, Jazz Fusion

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