When first exposed to this album, I must admit that it was the name that initially caught my attention most eagerly. Who is Karl Denson I wondered, and what sort of creations are hiding behind its vintage, circa-1800s styled artwork with a boldly-faced beagle clutching a saxophone in its mouth? After listening to the single “My Baby,” posted on their website, my curiosity quickly turned into excitement as I prepared myself to indulge in the other yet-to-be discovered treasures that New Ammo had to hold. Seeking refuge from January’s bitter dreariness, I cued up my stereo and pressed play, hoping for even a temporary escape from the frigid gusts of the now. Thirteen tracks and a few piping hot cups of black coffee later, I returned from my voyage into the tiny universe of Karl Denson, which to my pleasant surprise was anything but!
One of the first things I noticed about New Ammo was the overall excellence of musicianship present in Karl Denson and his cavalcade of explorers. Combining elements of Seventies progressive jam and funk-style groups like the Allman Brothers Band, Chicago, and The Doobie Brothers, with the energy and big band attitude of groups like Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and Earth, Wind, & Fire, New Ammo is chock full of hard-hitting grooves that will make you wish bell bottoms and leisure suits were back in style. (Ok, maybe not the latter, but older listeners will certainly identify with elements of their favorite bands of yesterday)
Largely an instrumental album, only a few tracks feature vocals from frontman Karl Denson. The ones that do however, mesh perfectly nestled between the extravagant compositions and offer a pull-back from the realms of jazz-fusion exploration (See tracks “Malgorium,” “Three Trials of Strength,” and “Odysseus,” if said genre is your cup of tea.) Denson even throws in a few unorthodox but superbly adapted covers, adding his Tiny Universe flavor to the Cold War Kids’ “Hang Me Up To Dry,” and a most impressive flute excursion over The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army.”
With the advancements of technology in pop culture and the growing emphasis of the digital realm on today’s entertainment industry, an album like New Ammo by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is a welcome change to the new standard. Younger audiences may not be able to fully appreciate his work (the generational gap has grown exponentially over the past few years,) but experienced listeners and overall music enthusiasts will certainly find something to connect with. I recommend anyone with an adventurous ear to explore the tiny universe of Karl Denson and his New Ammo.