Karl Denson's Tiny Universe brought the funk marathon to The Fillmore for a two-night stint over the weekend. I was able to make it to the Friday night show and was excited to see Karl back in the Bay Area. To me, a night with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is an all night love affair between the crowd and the band. When the Tiny Universe comes to town you know it only means one thing…time to shake your booty. An all night, fried chicken and mashed potatoes funk-a-thon to be exact. In this case it was to last the entire weekend here in San Francisco.

Shortly before 10:30pm, the Tiny Universe opened with Richman’s Welfare, a song that Karl described as being “about a well paying job that you hate”. They came out in full force, bombarding our booties to the dance floor. Judging by the rump shaking that occurred in the first five minutes into the set, I knew we were in for a good night. As I did not record the complete set list I can only suggest that most of the songs he performed were from his new album The Bridge. I have heard nothing but great things about the album and will be certain to pick it up on my next outing to the music store.

Throughout the performance, each musician was on point within the time and space of each song, which I believe is one of the defining components of a true funk machine. Ron Johnson held down the groove very well on the Bass. Props should be given to Zak Najor behind the drum kit and also Samson on Percussion. Brian Jordan’s awe-inspiring guitar work kept the heads bouncing all night. The Tiny Universe heart and soul could not be felt without David Veith’s hands on the keyboards. Chris Littlefield showed us that he is very capable at being Karl Denson’s right hand man on the Trumpet and furthermore, his trumpet style is reminiscent of Mile’s Davis.

In my opinion, I felt that the second set started off a bit mellow. They seemed to spend a while trying to lay down all of the groundwork in order to set up the groove. Although the greatest bands have spoiled many of us, we are a patient crowd and understand that a good jam needs to be cultivated. After the slow start, the Tiny Universe really hit their stride during Good for Me and pushed forward thereafter. This is one of the songs where I can directly trace his roots back to Lenny Kravitz; it’s amazing to hear the similarly high-pitched voice of Denson. When it comes down to it, Karl has a style all his own and he is the master of his domain on stage.

I have many favorite cities and towns to see live music in, but San Francisco has to take the cake. With all of the wonderful venues that we have here in the bay area, the energetic crowds seem to elevate the abilities of the musicians. Karl definitely puts on a solid show for the ticket price and I don’t think anyone who comes to see him perform will be disappointed. Anyone who watches him can see that he works hard to keep the crowd dancing furiously throughout each set. A strong and powerful leader who drives the acid jazz inspired afro beats through your soul and into your legs. His music and live performance is best described using his own lyrics “It’s good for your soul”.

Daniel Rudas
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 9/8/02]

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