Words & Images by Richard Clarke

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe :: 11.10.05 :: Culture Room :: Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Karl Denson :: 11.10 :: FL
Normally, I am disappointed when there is a two-song restriction on photography (as I am a photo junky). At this show, however, the rule worked to my advantage. After taking a few shots to accompany this article from the relative safety of the back of the house, I stashed my gear, jumped into the fray, and watched the rest of the show right in front of the Diesel Man, jumping around like a lunatic to the music with the rest of the South Florida audience, which would have been impossible toting around all the crap that is my photo gear.

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe hit the stage in front of an audience that was ready to rage, at what has become my new favorite venue, The Culture Room. The show began with keyboardist David Veith tickling the ivories, and one-by-one the other members of The Tiny Universe joined him, including bassist Ron Johnson, drummer John Staten, guitarist Brian Jordan, trumpet player and gadget man (synth, laptop, and assorted percussion) Chris Littlefield, and finally the Diesel Man himself, Karl Denson. "Walt's First Trip" immediately showed the versatility of Denson, as he offered skillful vocals in addition to his ear-bending sax playing. Denson also gets the groove on with percussion instruments as the bandleader lets the others have plenty of solo time. "Dance Lesson #2" had Denson alternating between flute and tenor sax. "Mango Meat" included incredible guitar licks by Jordan and an interesting musical exchange between keyboardist Veith and Littlefield on trumpet. "Outer Space" started as a slow grind (compared to the explosive tempo of the first four songs), but built in intensity before "Apparently" brought the show back to a soaring funky groove that had Denson jamming some of the best cowbell I have ever heard (more cowbell - KDTU got the memo) and a slick guitar solo by Jordan. "The Bridge" found Denson and Jordan trading vocals - Denson with his soulful voice and Jordan making his vintage Gibson hollow-body guitar sing. "Security" began with a tasty drum solo by Staten that led to an impressive duet between the drummer and Denson on tenor. The funk in "Bag of Funk" provided a big finish to the set and had the crowd melded into a single mass of pulsating bodies. Denson explored the low end of his tenor sax with bombs that I have not heard since Michael Brecker (my prayers are with you, Mike) in the Brecker Brothers, and I thought he would explode as he soared from the low end to some incredible high notes, all riding over the lightning fast crunchy bass of Johnson.

Chris Littlefield :: 11.10 :: FL
Karl Denson approached the microphone before the encore to announce that they were holding a fundraiser for hurricane and earthquake victims. A memorable version of "Cosmic Slop" had Denson playing tambourine at the same time as his sax - a truly versatile showman, he also led the audience in an energetic "Soul Clap." Denson returned to the stage after the encore and thrilled the already blown-away audience when he explained that someone had offered $500 to the fundraiser for fifteen more minutes of music. Apparently Karl Denson believes in matching donations, as "Groovy Thing" and "Once You're There" sent the show going on for another half an hour.

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe proved that they are a funk powerhouse with a huge sound and super-tight grooves. Their performance was one of the most enjoyable shows that I have seen in some time.

JamBase | Florida
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[Published on: 11/30/05]

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