The hardest working man and band in the land, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, played two bombastic shows to ring in the New Year last December 31st at B.B. King Blues Club in NYC. Then Karl did the unthinkable- he told the band to take a break. To go home. A hiatus, so to say, a much needed breather.

By Jaci Downs
Some of the band went home, others took vacations. Denson himself took a very short break before performing dates with Gov't Mule. Bassist Ron Johnson traveled to Brazil, guitarist Brian Jordan collaborated with several musicians during the San Francisco Funk Festival, and longtime Denson friend and drummer Zak Najor left the band to start his own project, Z-Bonics". Giant People drummer John Staten has joined the band, and by all accounts, is fitting in quite nicely. Percussionist Samson is stuck in Nigeria, unfortunately unable to work out his Visa problems.

Like a possessed drill sergeant, Karl Denson has kept his band on the road for much of the last three years, playing nearly two hundred shows each calendar year. The Tiny Universe has developed a reputation for playing legendary runs, late night burners, and a vast array of special guests are bound to appear each time Denson and company hit the road.

After the much needed breather, Karl has put together a thirty plus date tour that began with a one off gig at the Belly Up Tavern in the band’s hometown of San Diego last week. This weekend brings the band to the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco for a three-night stand. Joining the Tiny Universe in the Bay for the “Saxophone Summit” each night (as well as possible KDTU collaborations) is a certifiable jazz legend. Pharoah Sanders, who studied alongside John Coltrane during the master’s final psychedelic efforts, is renowned for his snake charming melodies and sounds. Sanders is rekindling his performance career this weekend, and Karl has given him his audience to tutor in the annals of exploratory jazz.

Later in the tour, as it progresses eastward, KDTU will share bills with 90’s funk freaks Fishbone in Florida, co-headline with Vida Blue in Philadelphia, and then pick up the hottest group in New York City, The Marco Benevento & Joe Russo Duo, for a series of East Coast gigs, including Boston and the Big Apple.
I spoke to Ron Johnson briefly the other day as the band was gathering for a photo shoot, and he spoke of a renewed energy amongst the band, fourteen new tunes, the banging new rhythm section, and the women in Brazil.

"Just like the Snoop Dogg 'Beautiful' video." Says Johnson. "And the music... everybody can dance! And the musicianship. Every one has time, everybody just feels it!"

And as for KDTU "I am really into the evolution of this band."

So am I.

By Jaci Downs
KDTU has set the standard for the sunrise show. Nowadays, it seems every band rocks a late night at a festival or after-show party. It all began a few years ago during New Orleans JazzFest, and has grown into a veritable tradition. Amongst a myriad of late night gigs in NOLA this year, the granddaddy of ‘em all, KDTU, returns for a mind boggling five sunrise shows at JazzFest, including the traditional Thursday night second weekend gig at the House of Blues and a Saturday night late-night at Tipitina's Uptown.

KDTU also returns to Colorado for a couple of dates with reggae/ska legends Toots and the Maytals in mid-May, before embarking on yet another sun-filled festival season, beginning in West Virginia with the All Good Festival at the Sunshine Daydream Campground (Trip's Farm).

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe cannot be pegged as your everyday funk band. The authenticity of their music is unchallenged, and the moist mix of improvisation with structure and discipline embodied by the bandleader is unparalleled. Denson brings the notes and the recipe for a black music history lesson and a glimpse into its future delivered each time the band hits the stage.

Brian Getz
JamBase | East Coast
Go See Live Music!

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe Dates:

3.27 | The Fillmore | San Francisco, CA
3.28 | The Fillmore | San Francisco, CA
3.29 | The Fillmore | San Francisco, CA
3.30 | Hyatt Lake Tahoe | Tahoe City, CA
4.03 | Freebird Cafe | Jacksonville Beach, FL
4.04 | Billboard Live | Miami Beach, FL
4.05 | Three Rivers Music Festival | Columbia, SC
4.06 | Starr Hill Music Hall | Charlottesville, VA
4.08 | Paradise Rock Club | Boston, MA
4.09 | Paradise Rock Club | Boston, MA
4.10 | 9:30 Club | Washington, DC
4.11 | Electric Factory | Philadelphia, PA
4.12 | Irving Plaza | New York, NY
4.13 | Copper Mountain Ski Resort | Copper, CO (Day Show)
4.13 | 8150 Club | Vail, CO (Night Show)
4.15 | Recher Theatre | Towson, MD
4.16 | Orange Peel | Asheville, NC
4.17 | The Music Farm | Charleston, SC
4.18 | Variety Playhouse | Atlanta, GA
4.19 | Variety Playhouse | Atlanta, GA
4.20 | Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park | Live Oak, FL
4.22 | Culture Room | Ft. Lauderdale, FL
4.23 | Jannus Landing | St. Petersburg, FL
4.25 | Tipitina's Uptown | New Orleans, LA
4.26 | Tipitina's Uptown | New Orleans, LA
5.01 | House of Blues | New Orleans, LA
5.02 | House of Blues | New Orleans, LA
5.03 | Tipitina's Uptown | New Orleans, LA
5.17 | Marvin's Mountaintop (All Good Festival) | Masontown, WV
6.29 | Saratoga Performing Arts Center | Saratoga Springs, NY

[Published on: 3/25/03]

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