Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
I would be lying if I said that tenor sax man Karl Denson’s music is incredibly novel and innovative. No, his brand of funk/jazz has been playing for over 30 years now and is still being jammed globally by Maceo Parker and his fellow JBs alums. However, I would also be lying if I said Mr. Denson was not some of the most fun you can have during a live performance. Just like Maceo, the man spreads the hall with such infectious funk, nobody’s immune.
And again, just like Mr. Parker, it is hard for Denson to translate that energy onto disc. KDTU’s latest, The Bridge, is a mixed bag of treats sprinkled with a few disappointments. Without the kinetic energy of the concert hall, a lot of this music seems a rehash of a lot better stuff that was produced during the Nixon administration. It is hard for Denson to break out of the heavily codified clichés of funk/jazz’s past. It can still be enjoyable, but just not as invigorating as old James Brown or Earth Wind & Fire or any other comparison many would feel unfair.
However, the former Greyboy All-Star is immensely talented, and, on occasion, you really do feel it on The Bridge. “Bunny Playa” is a decent cut. “Freedom” with Saul Williams and Michael Franti is truly exceptional. He really does make Curtis Mayfield’s “Check Out Your Mind” his own, though he does sound a bit like Lenny Kravitz (with whom he worked for years). And “Elephants” is a blindingly amazing Afropop cut that would really make Fela proud.
At times, The Bridge can be a really enjoyable experience. At others, it just makes you long for those notorious “good old days.” Denson has a way of really entertaining and really aggravating (especially since his voice is pretty thin, yet he insists on singing on 9 of the 11 cuts). It is up for you to decide if you want such a bipolar experience.
Relaxed Records: http://www.relaxedrecords.com/