What could be a better way to spend one's Friday than with an afternoon set of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe in the warm Arizona sun, followed closely by an evening concert with KDTU and local funksters Good Question. Topping off the night at a house party, three of the local Tucson Jambands teamed up with Karl and company for a late night collaborative throw down.
The festivities began at around noon. KDTU took the stage, in the middle of the U of A campus, and treated the student body to an hour of excitement. We were all just jumpin' and bumpin' while curious onlookers seemed confused as to who or what had taken over the school. A major highlight of this set was the cookin' rendition of Barbeque that worked the crowd into a whirlwind. There's nothing like a little appetizer to tease the taste buds for the enjoyment yet to come. There were a few hours of preparation time between the afternoon set and the "real" show that evening.
At around 8:30pm, the local jamband Good Question took the stage of the Rialto Theatre. Now that Good Question has been expanding their grooves far beyond the limits of the city of Tucson, getting down to their sweet sounds is less frequent and all the more anticipated. It was great to see how the band had adapted to their new sound as they debuted some originals and as well as taking new spins on old favorites. The major highlight of the set was when they paired their inspired cover of Beck's Nicotine and Gravy with their original piece Brotherman. Having recently parted ways with their rhythm guitarist, this was their first show to display their new wares as a trio to their hometown crowd. They had everyone in the Rialto dancing like crazy; an impressive feat for such an early slot to play.
Karl's set was on-deck and everyone was donning their party faces. By the time they walked on the stage, the Tucson locals and Gem Show out-of-towners were ready to dance through the night. Karl and company did not disappoint. They just grabbed everyone there by the ears and wouldn't let go! Tucson was on fire and KDTU held the torch. This show's high points were a powerful rendition of Curtis Mayfield's Check Out Your Mind and one of Karl's own compositions, Toys R Us. We danced and grooved to KDTU's sweet sounds and it seemed that all of Tucson had finally awoken from our town's recent musical hibernation.
The night was still young, and since KDTU was game for late night musical hijinks, a party/jam session predictably ensued. A local band called The Hampton Band offered up their music studio/house to hold the festivities and off we went. At around 1am, everyone from the show started to stumble into the house. There were a couple of kegs in the kitchen as well as a living room cleared of all obstacles. We really couldn't have asked for a more perfect setting; there was room for all of the musicians to jam out and for all of us dancers to get down. The groove started out slow and had a few improvised collaborative jams between musicians in Good Question, Tucson's own Leisure Ride, and the aforementioned Hampton Band.
After a short while, most of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, excluding the trumpeter, arrived and it was party time! Karl was the first to get into the action. With sax in hand, he got up and started jamming with this Tucson musical hybrid. It took a little while for all of these musicians to really feel each other out, but by the time 3am rolled around, the party was really taking off. Funk standard Chameleon was counted off and the tastiest musical treat of the night was underway. On stage was almost all of KDTU, the guitarists from both Good Question and Leisure Ride as well as Leisure Ride's percussionist. This was it, I can honestly say that the groove created through this Chameleon was as tight as anything I have ever seen performed in Tucson. People were bouncing off the walls, myself included, and the jam lasted till around 4am when the road weary Universe had to call it quits.
The beauty of a Tucson show is the combination of the attentive and responsive audience with a small town environment to create an intimate musical experience hard pressed to find elsewhere. A day like this just goes to show that magic can occur anywhere, even in the middle of this desert oasis.
JamBase Tucson Correspondent
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