The new release Gnomes and Badgers by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is out now! The album is Denson’s hard-grooving answer to these tragically divisive times. Highly regarded as one of the best live acts on the planet, KDTU distills the sweeping stylistic range of its concert performances into their own authentic sound featuring Denson and his long-standing seven piece unit.
To aid him in his mission, Denson tapped some of his legendary friends, including The Rolling Stones’ keyboardist and Allman Brothers Band alum Chuck Leavell, guitar-slinging singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson, New Orleans guitar hero Anders Osborne, Austin producer and guitarist Adrian Quesada and NOLA R&B royal Ivan Neville.
In 2014, Denson delivers the latest addition to his oeuvre, a relentless 13-track dance floor grenade entitled, New Ammo. The album is his debut on Slightly Stoopid’s record label, Stoopid Records, and his first recording since 2009 with the Tiny Universe. Alongside Denson originals like the title track and “Everybody Knows That,” which have become fan favorites from his live sets, he offers up searing versions of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, “Hang Me Up To Dry” by Cold War Kids and “Sure Shot” by The Beastie Boys. He’s joined by a number of special guests, including Mike Dillon, The Cosmic Horns and Nicki Bluhm who adds vocals to the first single “My Baby.” In Denson’s own words: “We’ve finally figured out how to capture in the studio what the Tiny Universe does live. We move around a lot musically, but this record reflects who we are as a band and where we’re headed with our music!”
Karl Denson is one of the most innovative and thrilling musicians of his generation. Able to cross cultural and generational boundaries with his unique mix of soul, rock, funk, blues and jazz, Denson manages to reinvent himself time and time again. It is no wonder why the celebrated saxman and vocalist has been first call for such musicians as Warren Haynes, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Franti (Spearhead), The Allman Brothers and James Brown alum Fred Wesley. On September 15, 2009 Denson will release ” Brother’s Keeper on Shanachie Entertainment joining the musical chameleon with an all-star cast including Meshell Ndegeocello, Marc Ford (Black Crowes) and musicians from Lenny Kravitz’s Band, The Dap Kings, The Greyboy Allstars and Switchfoot.
Karl Denson wants you to dance to his music. That’s why the former Greyboy Allstars frontman named his first solo album Dance Lesson #2. The disc is a collection of funky, soul-driven tracks highlighted byDenson’s fiery extended saxophone solos. Like a true student of jazz, Denson is always experimenting with new collaborations. Instead of enlisting his touring Tiny Universe band, he pulled together a lineup of musical heavyweights including Medeski, Martin & Wood bassist Chris Wood, turntable specialist DJ Logic, legendary organists Leon Spencer Jr. and Ron Levy, awe-inspiring guitarists Melvin Sparks and Charlie Hunter, ex-Greyboy Allstars drummer Zak Najor, and Los Cubanos Postizos percussionist E.J. Rodriguez. The album is a jazz hybrid that flows from the straight-ahead beauty of “A.J. Bustah” to the up-tempo title track, which is invigorated by DJ Logic’s scratching and the contrast between Denson’s marching flute and wailing sax. “A Shorter Path #1” is a sweet tune that provides the theme for “A Shorter Path #2,” a stretched-out smooth jazz exploration of “Path #1.” Throughout the album, Denson’s dance-inducing, driving groove infuses each inventive track with contagious energy.
The Bridge is a fairly straightforward document of Karl Denson’s live performance. Though there are plenty of guests on the disc — including poet and activist Michael Franti, poet Saul Williams, funk trombonist Fred Wesley, and jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove — that’s not too unusual for Denson and company. Denson himself regularly turns up on others’ stages and just as frequently invites guests to sit in with his own Tiny Universe. The music is an eclectic mix of funk and R&B approaches. The playing is straightforward and energetic across the board. The sonically adventurous cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Check out Your Mind,” with its multi-layered textures, is a standout track. Pop studio man Russ Elevado mixes the band sympathetically and warmly, with each instrument obvious in the mix without ever being overbearing.
Karl Denson’s brand of postbop jazz considers 1960s-era hard bop a mere launch-off. The D Stands for Diesel has the tenor saxophonist fronting a band similar in makeup to the vaunted Greyboy Allstars. Here, Denson also enlists vocalist Andy Bey as a soulful, mellifluous answer to early jazz’s shouters. Keyboardist Robert Walter provides pinpoint accuracy when necessary and smudgy Fender Rhodes electric piano when the mood is downright shaking. Denson’s got the goods on his horn. He blows with a harmonically tight focus one second and a reaching scour the next. D Stands is energetic the way Catalyst once was, with a love for unbridled jams and improvisational creativity atop precise rhythmic footing.
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