Snarky Puppy

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Snarky Puppy is an American instrumental ensemble led by bassist Michael League. Snarky Puppy combines a variety of jazz idioms, rock, world music, and funk and has won four Grammy Awards. Although the band has worked with vocalists, League described Snarky Puppy as "a pop band that improvises a lot, without vocals".

The band was formed as a 10-piece group by Michael League in Denton, Texas, after his second year at the University of North Texas, in 2004, “Because I was so bad,” he claimed, “I didn't place into any of the school ensembles. So Snarky Puppy was my way of getting to play.” The group has grown into an international super-band made up of "...a wide-ranging assemblage of musicians known affectionately as 'The Fam'." In more than 17 years since its founding, about 40 players have performed in "The Fam" on guitar, bass, keyboards, woodwinds, brass, strings, drums, and percussion, but six of the 10 members on the first studio album The Only Constant remain on the regular roster. Many past and present band members were students at the University of North Texas.

Members have performed with Erykah Badu, Marcus Miller, Justin Timberlake, Stanley Clarke, Kirk Franklin, Ari Hoenig, Roy Hargrove, David Crosby, Michael McDonald, Snoop Dogg, and many other artists. While touring, the band has given clinics, workshops, and master classes in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and most members either lead or are primary players in other working recording bands.

In 2005, League self-released the band's unofficial first album Live at Uncommon Ground. Snarky Puppy's next three albums were released independently, after which Tell Your Friends, groundUP, Family Dinner: Volume One, and We Like It Here were released on the band's GroundUP imprint on Ropeadope.

The album We Like It Here was performed and recorded live in October 2013 at the artistic compound Kytopia in Utrecht, Netherlands.

On January 26, 2014, Snarky Puppy and vocalist Lalah Hathaway won a Grammy Award in the Best R&B Performance category for their rendition of the Brenda Russell song "Something" from Family Dinner – Volume 1. Sylva debuted at number one on the Billboard magazine Heatseekers Chart, the Jazz Album chart, and the Contemporary Jazz Album chart. The album won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. The album Culcha Vulcha (2016) won the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. Friday 26 April 2019, the band released the first bonus track from Immigrance. Immigrance is the latest evolution of the band as League noted to David Browne in Rolling Stone: “We’re more into setting up nice grooves that we like and sitting with things a bit longer.”

Although the band had recorded several albums with a small audience of friends, family, and guests in the studio with them, its first true "live, in-concert" album was Live at the Royal Albert Hall recorded before a sold-out crowd at the historic London venue. The album won the 2021 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.

A second "live, in-concert" album, "Live at GroundUP Music Festival" was released in the Spring of 2022. The album consists of a single performance from each of the GroundUP Music Festival's first four seasons, none of which had been included in the "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" album.

In March, 2022, the band recorded their forthcoming album, Empire Central, at the Deep Ellum Art Company in Dallas, Texas.


With the release of the album GroundUP in 2012, Snarky Puppy started its own imprint, GroundUP Music, on Ropeadope Records. It was inspired by the idea of helping lesser-known artists capitalize on Snarky Puppy's growing fanbase. In 2016, GroundUP Music left Ropeadope and partnered with Universal Music for three years of releases and is now a fully independent label. It has released albums by David Crosby, Snarky Puppy, Becca Stevens, Bokanté, Banda Magda, Alina Engibaryan, Charlie Hunter, Breastfist, Sirintip, Mark Lettieri, House of Waters, PRD Mais, Roosevelt Collier, Forq, Lucy Woodward, The Funky Knuckles, Michelle Willis, Cory Henry, Justin Stanton, Bill Laurance, and Maz.

GroundUP Music Festival

In 2017, the GroundUP Music Festival, also known as GUMFest, debuted within the grounds of the North Beach Band Shell in North Beach, Miami. The first GroundUP Music Festival was initiated by Andy Hurwitz, directed by Paul Lehr, and artistically directed by Michael League. The festival features performances by Snarky Puppy all three nights, with a line-up curated by League that has featured Michael McDonald, Cecile McLorin Salvant, David Crosby, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, The Wood Brothers, Robert Glasper, Knower, Concha Buika, C4 Trio, Pedrito Martinez, Jojo Mayer + Nerve, Mark Guiliana's Beat Music, John Medeski's Mad Skillet, Charlie Hunter Trio, Laura Mvula, Eliades Ochoa, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueke, Joshua Redman, Terence Blanchard, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, MARO, and Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band as well as the full GroundUP Music roster, among others. Through February 2020 (and prior to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic), GroundUP Music Festival, Miami, had become an annual event.