Michael League

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Michael League
Michael League.jpg
League at the Heineken Jazzaldia
Background information
Born (1984-04-24) April 24, 1984 (age 34)
Long Beach, California, United States
GenresJazz, Fusion, World music
InstrumentsBass, Guitar, Keyboards
Years active2004-present
Associated actsSnarky Puppy, FORQ, Bokanté
Websitewww.groundupmusic.net www.snarkypuppy.com

Michael League is a 3-time Grammy Award-winning American composer, producer, arranger, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. He is the bandleader of New York based instrumental band Snarky Puppy and the international music ensemble, Bokante. He is also an owner and founder of the record label GroundUP Music.[1]


League was born in California to music-loving parents, though not professional musicians. He had an attraction to music from an early age, and began playing guitar at 13 years old. He started playing bass at age 17, when he was requested to do so in his senior high school jazz band.[2] He went on to study jazz at the University of North Texas, then spent three years playing in Dallas's Gospel and R&B scene [3] under the unofficial mentorship of keyboardist Bernard Wright. There he performed with gospel artists like Walter Hawkins, Kirk Franklin[4], Marvin Sapp, Myron Butler & Levi, and Israel Houghton and frequently performed at the Potter's House.[2] He was also a regular member of Erykah Badu's backing band, The Gritz. League moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2009, and then to Catalunya, Spain in 2018.

Music career[edit]

League formed Snarky Puppy in his freshman year of college at the University of North Texas, originally consisting of him and nine of his peers. He is also the composer for most of their original music, as well as the producer of all albums released by the band. He has performed or recorded with artists from a variety of genres including Laura Mvula, Lalah Hathaway, Joe Walsh, Chris Thile, Michael McDonald, Terence Blanchard, Esperanza Spalding, Joshua Redman, Wayne Krantz, Chris Potter, Derek Smalls (of Spinal Tap), Salif Keita, Eliades Ochoa (of the Buena Vista Social Club), Fatoumata Diawara, Bassekou Kouyate, Susana Baca, and Kardeş Türküler. He currently serves as musical director for David Crosby in his Lighthouse touring band, alongside Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis.[5]

In 2014, he won his first grammy for "Best R&B Performance" with Snarky Puppy and Lalah Hathaway for a live performance of the Brenda Russell/David Foster song "Something" on the Family Dinner - Volume 1album.[3]

In 2016, "Sylva", the collaborative album between Snarky Puppy and the Metropole Orkest and conducted by Jules Buckley won a Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Instrumental Album", as did the band's follow-up album, Culcha Vulcha in 2017.[6]

League formed the world/blues ensemble Bokanté in 2016 and has produced two albums for the band; "Strange Circles", and "What Heat". "Strange Circles was released on GroundUP Music[7] and "What Heat", also a collaboration with Jules Buckley and the Metropole Orkest, will be released on Peter Gabriel's label in the fall of 2018, Real World Records.[8]

As a producer[edit]

League has produced albums for a wide range of artists, including two titles from David Crosby ("Lighthouse" and "Here If You Listen"), all twelve Snarky Puppy albums, and (either as primary producer or co-producer) for GroundUP Music artists Becca Stevens, Banda Magda, Sirintip, Alina Engibaryan, Roosevelt Collier, FORQ, Lucy Woodward, Bill Laurance, among others.[9]

GroundUP Music Festival[edit]

In 2017, League with GroundUP Music CEO Paul Lehr created the annual GroundUP Music Festival, also known as GUMFest[10], which was held within the grounds of the Band Shell in North Beach (Miami Beach).[11] The festival features performances by Snarky Puppy all three nights, with a line-up curated by League that has featured David Crosby, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones Trio, The Wood Brothers, Robert Glasper Trio, Knower, Concha Buika, C4 Trio, Pedrito Martinez, Jojo Mayer + Nerve, Mark Guiliana's Beat Music, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet (featuring Will Bernard and Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s Kirk Joseph and Terrence Higgens), Charlie Hunter Trio ( featuring Jeff Coffin, Chris Thile & Michael Daves), Laura Mvula, Eliades Ochoa, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueke, Joshua Redman and Terence Blanchard as well as the full GroundUP Music roster, among others.[12][13] GroundUP Music Festival, Miami, is now planned as an annual event.


  1. ^ http://snarkypuppy.com/about
  2. ^ a b Jisi, Chris. "Michael League Top Dog With Snarky Puppy". bassplayer.com. Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b Johnson, Kevin. "From the Ground Up: An Interview with Michael League". notreble.com. Coreyweb LLC. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Michael League". pigtronix.com.
  5. ^ http://www.snarkypuppy.com/about
  6. ^ https://www.grammy.com/search/Snarky%20Puppy
  7. ^ http://bokante.com
  8. ^ https://realworldrecords.com/releases/what-heat/
  9. ^ "Michael League Credits". allmusic.com. All Music Guide.
  10. ^ Garno, Kelly. "Announcing Late Night at GroundUP Music Festival". sensiblereason.com. Sensible Reason. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  11. ^ Schlein, Zach. "Michael League Crafts an Intimate Festival Experience in GroundUp Music". miaminewtimes.com. Miami New Times. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  12. ^ Kahn, Andy. "Snarky Puppy & GroundUP Music Announce 2017 GroundUP Music Festival Lineup". jambase.com. Jambase. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  13. ^ "GroundUP Music Festival Feb 9 - 11, 2018". jambase.com. Jambase. Retrieved 14 September 2018.