“Sylva” by Snarky Puppy

I owe 90’s alternative to my mom, hip-hop to a childhood friend, heavy metal to my brother, and classic rock to a friend whom I call brother. Everything that came after I like to claim as my own. So, I’m a late bloomer when it comes to jazz & classical. After exploring both, I’m finding that jazz has tipped the scales between the two genres, and that my preference within jazz leans towards the later years into now. This is not to say I don’t love what came before bebop, but everything that came after is so much more resonant with me.

So, I enjoy jazz, and a band like Snarky Puppy, when I stumbled upon them years ago, was a match made in heaven: a huge lineup, talented musicians, tons of instruments, improvisation, complexity, a bit of funk, etc. I started with their album groundUP and have followed them since, always maintaining a respect for them as a solid jazz band with some great sounds. Then their bandleader, Michael League, wanted to create a collaboration between a jazz band and an orchestra.

Then came Sylva.

Oh, this album.

Trying to convey how much the sounds that come off this record move me is incredibly difficult. The only way I have found that works for me is basically listening to it with someone—whether it’s voluntary or not is irrelevant—and involves me giving, what is essentially commentary over the album, “This part that’s coming up, the horns, it’s so good. I love it. I love it!” It could involve watching me play air guitar over bits that aren’t even guitar lines. It may even involve me incoherently repeating the word ‘just’ over and over, while I gesture with my hand back and forth, culminating in a long sigh. Instrumental music has a way of reducing me to a child, in awe of something I can’t articulate in the slightest.

I texted a friend, who I knew was into jazz, that if he wanted to listen to what will later be known as one of the greatest jazz albums of the modern era, then he should listen to “Sylva” by Snarky Puppy.

Dramatic text? Oh, of course. Do I still believe it? Why yes I do.