20 avril 2015
Snarky Puppy + Metropole Orkest : Sylva
Ready for the Sylva adventure?
Snarky Puppy and the Metropole Orkest invite you to follow them with Sylva, a funky, Impressionist concept-album dedicated to the mysteries of the forest that takes you to the tree-covered slopes of the Sintra mountains in Portugal and the giant tall trees of North Carolina… not forgetting the sombre woods of Virginia or the teeming swamps of Louisiana.
SYLVA BY MICHAEL LEAGUE
When Snarky Puppy won a Grammy in January of 2014, the question I was asked most was, “Was this on your bucket list of things to do before you die?” And my answer to each of them was, actually, no. I have only one thing on my list. The only thing I want to do before I die is make an album with an orchestra.
It had been a topic of discussion for three months at that time. During the October 2013 recording sessions for “We Like It Here” in Utrecht, our good friend Friederike Darius had invited two of the Metropole Orkest’s managers to join us as guests. Within ten minutes of the performance’s end, we had already crafted a plan to make a record together. Sometimes life is that easy. Not always, not most of time, but every once in a while, it is.
The last thing I wanted to do with this opportunity was turn it into a “Snarky Puppy With Strings” situation. While on tour in Germany in November, I snuck off to Berlin for a night to meet with conductor Jules Buckley and discuss possibilities for the material. We both agreed that a brand new piece of music written specifically for this hybrid ensemble would be the ideal scenario. I asked Jules, could I customize the instrumentation of the Metropole a bit? Of course I could. How about a lot more than a bit? No problem. Is it okay if I do the arranging on my own despite the fact that I’ve never arranged for an orchestra and then just have you clean it up and make it sound like I know what I’m doing? Perfectly fine with me. Is there anything I could ask you right now that would elicit a negative response? No.
If there were any way to sum up the tone and attitude of the entire experience, this conversation with Jules would just about do it. It went like that from start to finish. I wrote the music while on tour, in buses and on planes and in dressing rooms backstage before and after shows. Throughout the whole process, my governing concept was to try to capture the many sides and personalities of the only place where I feel truly connected to the earth as a human being. A place that is at once innocent, frightening, awe-inspiring, impenetrable, fragile, stoic, telling, a shelter, a labyrinth, a temple, a tomb, a sanctuary, a parliament, a prison. The forest.
I wanted it to be a suite, a single piece of music connected by a thread that could highlight the strengths of the Metropole- specifically, their stylistic versatility and incredible sense of groove and feel (a rarity in the orchestral world). Each movement is about a different forest I’ve spent time in, from the mountains of Portugal to the swamps of Louisiana to the giant redwoods of northern California to the land behind my neighbor’s house in Virginia to the dark wood that lived all of our heads as children, the one that we dreamt of being lost in, consumed by, and then woke up sweating, running to our parents’ room for reassurance.
My desire was to make everything about the album different from what we’ve ever done and also from what is expected of an orchestral album. It was recorded 100% live, with no overdubs or “studio magic” to make things sound cleaner or thicker. 300 audience members joined us for four performances over two nights, wearing headphones in order to hear the music exactly as we, the performers, were hearing it. We stacked the low end of the orchestra with bass and contrabass clarinets and low brass and expanded the string section. We arranged set pieces and the physical bodies of the musicians to form a kind of integrated human-floral forest within which the audience would sit (I’m still jealous of the people whose seats were inside of the string section). We tried to create a place where one could forget where they were and simply be surrounded by sound.
In keeping with the organic theme, we chose to use only analog instruments (Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, piano, clavinet, Moogs, and organ instead of the normal synthesizer fortress), had some resourceful Dutch craftsmen sculpt a landscape out of both metal and wood from a local renewable forest, and brought on Miraphora Mina (graphic designer for the Harry Potter films) to create album artwork that would tell the story of the music before even touching the disc. The two nights of performances were like a dream to me, coming and going in a blissful blur. The Metropole Orkest put such heart into the music that it was hard to imagine ever playing a show without them, though by now I’ve finally come to terms with it.
It goes without saying that releasing it on the legendary record label Impulse! is a true honor for us, as we have spent the last 10 years releasing 8 albums independently. I’m excited to see what new opportunities await and proud to be working with such a wonderful group of people whose primary concern is artistic integrity- needless to say, a very difficult thing to find in the music industry.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this massive endeavor. I feel that Sylva is the most challenging, dynamic, unique release in Snarky Puppy’s entire catalogue, and I hope that you find the same joy listening to it as we did making it.
VIDEO CLIPS AVAILABLE
The Curtain: http://vevo.ly/sr7KR7
The Clearing: http://vevo.ly/RM3HOw
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- 30/06/2015Montreal Jazz Festival Montreal / CA
- 11/07/2015Jazz à VienneVienne / FR
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- 18/07/2015Gent Jazz Festival Gent / BL
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- 24/09/2015Royce Hall (UCLA) Los Angeles / US
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