Written By: Ryan Dembinsky
As the fall music season kicks into full gear and talks of musical costumes proliferate,
one tour to keep an eye on is
Karl Denson and Zach Deputy collaborating on their Ray Charles Boogaloo Dance Party shows.
These energetic tributes find Karl Denson and the Tiny Universe Horns serving as the
backing band while
Zach Deputy tackles
vocal duties on a complete national tour of Ray Charles’ music.
[Photo by Jamie Piazza]
No stranger to dance party tribute shows, Karl Denson and Tiny Universe have performed a
number of memorable
runs in recent years as both the Beastie Boys and the Stones, but this is the first full
length tour. The additional
shows should allow the group to gel and evolve with the music while on the road making
this the most exploratory
and energetic iteration yet.
By the looks of his big bushy beard, you might not think Zach Deputy could do a mean Ray
Charles but he really nails
the vocals while the horns inject the high octane soul. The Ray Charles Boogaloo Dance
Party tour is underway
and continues to span a host of West Coast and Southern dates with a highlight stop at
the Fillmore in Denver for
JAMBASE: Given the current Ray Charles tour, I thought it might be interesting to
talk about where you
got started with Ray Charles, what his music meant to you and how the idea ultimately
KD: He was always one of my favorite voices. It was really Ray Charles and Stevie
Wonder. So that -
combined with the fact that I never knew that Zach Deputy was such a great Ray Charles
mimic until I saw him in San
Diego one time and he was up at a show doing some Ray Charles - really led to the idea. We
had been hanging out
for years before that night, so I said, “Hey, I didn’t know you could do that.” It was
loving Ray Charles and
discovering that Zach Deputy was a huge Ray Charles fan that really made me come up with
JAMBASE: I know you road tested this at Jazzfest, but I was curious how you handle
Do you have a keyboard or piano player there? I’m guessing it’s not really centered on the
piano as much as Ray
Charles would have been in terms of arrangements? Does Zach play any guitar or do any of
KD: Our approach is always really to just play the music and see how we fit into
it. The only thing I’ve
actually added for this run is I’m bringing a baritone sax player out to beef up the
horns. Zach is actually not playing
anything when he does the Ray Charles thing. He’s just singing like Ray Charles.
Zach does play some guitar with us as part of the Tiny Universe, which is really fun
because he’s a really strong
guitar player and you don’t get to see him play with a band very often, so that’s another
little special treat.
JAMBASE: Could you talk about how you guys prepare for something like this tour?
I’m sure there are a
fair amount of moving parts and presumably, as with most things, probably less rehearsal
time than you might like.
Do you get much time to practice?
KD: Basically, we know what songs we have to learn going into it, so we do as much
as we can at home. We've
already done this kind of thing a couple of times, so we know where we’re at when
we get together, and then
we’ll do a big rehearsal the night before the first show.
From then on, we start just rolling with it. The beauty of this one is we have twenty
or so shows to do, so we’ll
have more days to rehearse as it moves along. There will be shows and then days in between
and more shows, so
this one will actually be pretty easy compared to some of the other stuff we did where it
was fewer shows.
JAMBASE: Yeah it’s exciting how big this became. You guys really blew it out into a
full tour and the
reception has been great.
KD:Yeah, absolutely. That is a really cool part. When I did the Sticky Fingers
even though we had
Anders [Osborne], we only planned a handful of shows. Then, when we did the Beastie Boys,
MCA died right after we
did our first couple of shows, which kind of put a damper on it so we didn’t get to do too
many of those. This one is
more for the fun of it. Plus, Zach and I have been talking about doing it for a while.
It’s going to be really fun doing
more than a handful of shows.
JAMBASE: Do you have any sense of what the demographic is going to be like? I’m
curious to see if it’s still
mostly the jamband and jazz fans or if reaches into some older Ray Charles fans as well?
KD:You know, there might be some variety. We’re just going to try to have fun
playing music for whoever it
is. We know it’ll be our fans, so if some others pop in that would be awesome [laughs].
JAMBASE: In terms of Ray’s music, he’s known for having a few different periods in
his development from
being a big person in the emergence of soul music, but also with country music and blues
music, so I wondered if
you had any certain styles that you are most drawn to or maybe certain songs you love?
KD:Not really to be honest. I really like all of his stuff. What we are focusing on
is the more dance stuff. We
really like doing the early boogaloo Ray Charles. It’s more fun to party to, but I love
all of it.
His version of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma is probably my favorite
his ever. His version of
Johnny Cash’s "Ring Of Fire," which we are going to do, is insane. I’ve always loved Ray
Charles. His voice really always
did it for me.
JAMBASE: I know you have a new album coming out. I’ve seen in the past where you’ve
said it can be tough
with so many working musicians to get things completed, but this one seems like it should
be really special. What are
you excited about on this one?
KD:Yeah man, we got this record done and I’m really excited because we got a new
drummer and we feel
like musically, we’ve kind of stepped into another thing. We’re writing a lot and gearing
up to make another record
right away. It’s going to be fun. The record is coming out great. We got Nicki Bluhm to
do a duet with me on a track,
which is going to be really cool. I don’t think it will be as cumbersome making records
from here on out, so we’re
JAMBASE: Everyone always asks about your fitness regime, in terms of how you get
What’s your secret to
KD: [laughs] I’ve been doing Tai Chi for probably thirty years now. That’s just how
I keep my batteries
charged. It’s an important part of what I do in terms of being able to travel and play and
do what I do without
breaking down, you know?
JAMBASE: Last one, how did you land the role as part of the unforgettable Sexual
Chocolate in Coming To
KD:I was in a band back then and the drummer actually got a gig on the Paramount
lot as John Landis’s
gopher [laughs]. John found out that he had a band and there was a need for a band in the
movie, so we got written
in to the script. It’s been pretty awesome to have that on my resume.