Not everyone in the S.D. music scene has played with him, but almost everyone has heard him. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t reverent when speaking of Karl Denson. He’s been the go-to saxophone player for more than two decades, having played with everyone from Lenny Kravitz and Steve Winwood to local hitmakers Slightly Stoopid and Joshua White. If a band needs a sexy sax hook, a jazz flute solo or even some soulful vocals, Denson’s the man to call. His own bands—jazz-funk jammers The Greyboy Allstars and the more soul-heavy Tiny Universe—are practically legendary at this point, selling out local clubs or being flown out to festivals all over the world (not to mention playing A-list openings like the J. Craig Venter Institute, where Al Gore was the honored guest). Even with the bands’ collective spirit, Karl is decidedly the star of the show with his swanky attire and ‘60s-inspired style. “I’m a cross between James Bond and Mad Men. I love a good suit. My clothes might be shiny, but my horn is not,” says Denson, armed with his 1968 sax. When he’s not being a “bad vegetarian” munching on rolls at Sushi Ota, he’s probably catching Gilbert Castellanos at the trumpet player’s Wednesday night jam sessions at Seven Grand. Or he’s sitting in with the band because, as he puts it, “it’s a labor of love, but I’ve also got three kids to put through college.” And, yes, the kids all play music.

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