Ottawa audiences have only been able to hear local jazz pianist Nick Maclean during the holidays for the last four years, as he's been completing his studies in the renowned jazz program at Humber College in Toronto.

Nick Maclean ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Nick Maclean ©Brett Delmage, 2011
He's back for Study Week this week, and this time he's bringing five other Humber students, in a new jazz fusion band they've formed called Snaggle. They'll be performing their original compositions at the Avant-Garde Bar on Thursday, and then in Montreal and Toronto on the weekend.

This won't be the quiet, somewhat introspective music we've heard from Maclean before, whether in Notes in Triplicate or in duets with local vocalists or bassists.

“It's going to be very far departed from any of the stuff that you would have seen me in Ottawa before,” he says.

And it will be louder. It will be “a solid rhythm-section groove, with horns floating on top of it with different melodies and such. We really like to groove this music and have a lot of fun with it. There's an interaction between the players, and solo sections and we even have a couple sections where everyone is collectively building up to a great big chaotic climax.”

Maclean said Snaggle is a fusion group, but not just 70s jazz-rock fusion. “Pretty much nothing's off the table. We've got a tune heavily drawing off some klezmer influences. We've got one that's drawing on classical, heavy metal, and polka all in the same tune. It's a fun one. But most of the stuff is jazz-rock-funk-ish.”

Its main inspiration: a Brooklyn-based jazz group called Snarky Puppy, which “plays, in a very weird and twisted way, dance music, but it's very artistic and really fun.” Snaggle has a similar instrumental lineup to the core members of Snarky Puppy, and like Snaggle, the original members of Snarky Puppy all met at university. (Snarky Puppy has played Ottawa twice: in 2011 at Barrymore's, and at the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival.)

Other Snaggle influences – at least in terms of Maclean's compositions – include the Brecker Brothers, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the Brian Blade Fellowship.

The band was founded last September by Maclean and bassist Doug Moore, who have also written almost all its material. All the members are currently in their final year of study at Humber.

They have been playing occasionally in Toronto music clubs. Last fall, they recorded an album at the Humber studio, which they hope to release this summer, along with continuing to perform live. All the band's members are planning to stay in Toronto: Maclean said he has applied to the Master's program at the University of Toronto.

Maclean said that audiences enjoy Snaggle's music “because it's energetic music that they can relate to but at the same time there's a little bit of other stuff going on. There's a lot of heavier elements in it – more complex harmonies and stuff – but it's still in the end relatable.”

At each Snaggle performance this weekend, audiences will also hear another group featuring Maclean: Midcoast, which he says does “jazzy-rocky-pop-y stuff”. The Montreal show will also feature a rock group called The Vare, and the Toronto show will also feature a jazz group, The Brad Cheeseman Group.

And how loud will be it be? Do you need earplugs? “Earplugs would probably be a good idea.”

    – Alayne McGregor

Snaggle will play the Avant-Garde Bar in Ottawa on Thursday, February 21; Crobar in Montreal on Friday, February 22; and The Central in Toronto on Sunday, February 24.

(February 19: Corrected spelling of The Vare.)