For the past few years, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe has been taking the country by storm. Whether stretching a late night into the early morning or simply rocking bodies through extensive work outs disguised as two set evenings, they are stronger then ever and looking to make 2004 their biggest year yet. A large factor in their constant growth is the man on the axe, Brian Jordan.
Blending world music, Afro-funk, and hints of jazz, there isn't much Brian doesn't play around with, and even less he can't master. Surprisingly quiet and amazingly humble, Brian allows his guitar to speak for him and every note he plays sticks to your shoes, your soul, and your heart. I have had the opportunity to sit and speak with him on several occasions and I am always taken aback by his assertiveness and ability to talk about so many types of music. The following is a segment of a couple emails we traded back and forth discussing his style, his thoughts on the scene, and of course, the Tiny Universe.
JamBase: In KDTU you play guitar, however, you can play several instruments. Why did you pick guitar over the other instruments you can play?
Brian: I picked guitar because that was my first instrument, and it is an instrument that is extremely versatile. Guitar is an instrument that can be played in a band or just as well solo. The musical possibilities of the guitar are so wide open. From jazz to funk to rock 'n' roll, the guitar can perform a quintessential role in all of these genres.
Brian Jordan by Michael Weintrob
JamBase: Out of all the different styles of playing, what do you think separates a funk guitarist from say a rock guitarist?
Brian: I think what separates a funk guitarist from a rock guitarist is that a funk guitarist' main focus is on rhythm as opposed to rock guitarist focus on color. In funk music, the guitarist can almost function as another drummer. The guitarist in funk music can have a significant influence on the feel of the music. The music of James Brown is a primary example. The guitar parts are locked into a tight groove along with the drums, and seem to function as melodic and harmonic extensions of the drum patterns. In rock music, the guitarist has a greater influence on the color or sound of the music. For example, the color (sound texture) of the guitar in rock music can range from a heavy sound like in the music of Soundgarden, Metallica, or Queens of the Stone Age sound, to a light Hootie and the Blowfish or Coldplay sound, to a vintage Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, or Dick Dale sound. So many possibilities!
JamBase: Many bands out there get together in hopes of making it big and a ton of money. This seems to be the opposite in the jam band world. Why? What were your intentions in making music, and have you ever found that you need to make compromises in order to get your music to the most people possible?
Brian: Well, the jam band music scene seems to differ from the popular music scene in that it is driven by the love of music as opposed to the love of money. The musicians and the fans seem to make it happen without too many middlemen. I started playing music when I was a kid because I loved music. I didn't start playing because I wanted to be a rock-star or make a ton of money. I didn't know too much about money or ego when I was eight years old. I just loved music. I still play music today because I love it. If I wanted to just make money, I would have gone into stocks or been a doctor. Those would be easier moneymaking options by far! The path to success in the music industry is definitely not written in stone or in a college course.
Brian Jordan by Susan J. Weiand
You live in San Diego, which seems to have a great scene for people who want to hear complex, intelligent groove music, but the further you move north, this depletes really drastically until you get up to Frisco. Why do you think this is?
Well, the Los Angeles music scene seems to be primarily money driven. Most of the bands seem to be focused on getting record deals, so they focus on polishing their images and making just the right presentation in order to be accepted by industry executives with power and money. So, to varying degrees, the music itself can suffer or not be as important. As a result, you have bands that are making and playing music for the industry based on their own ideas of music and what they perceive as pleasing to the industry, and not necessarily making music for the fans.
Brian Jordan by Haig Assadourian
Has playing the festival scene changed your mindset on anything? Mostly you guys play smaller venues--clubs and theaters--and then to play at Bonnaroo is a huge leap. Do you enjoy playing to larger audiences or more intimate settings?
I think both venues serve their purpose well and are equally as satisfying. Intimate settings tend to make it easier to connect with the audience, but big festivals give many people from many different places a chance to come together and enjoy the music of their favorite bands together. That's a different kind of high altogether. It's great to see many different faces in the crowd from different parts of the country and from abroad all gathered at one show!