Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe

Gnomes And Badgers
(Seven Spheres)

Jazz, funk and rock are at the root of Karl Denson’s work, whether it was as a member of The Greyboy Allstars, during tours with the Rolling Stones or helming his Tiny Universe ensemble. And on Gnomes And Badgers the reedist hits on a perfect balance.

“What If You Knew”—hosting everything from Chris Littlefield’s trumpet to David Veith’s wah-distorted keys, Mike Dillon’s percussive cornucopia and Denson’s emphatic lead vocals—is a master class in scrupulous composing, performing and mixing. Once the parts come together, the dense combination of sounds might be contrasted with boldly ornate, but smartly designed, architecture: crowded, yet comprehensible.

Conversely, when “Time To Pray” leaves space for more individual spotlights, the Tiny Universe’s edginess shines through, as DJ Williams’ definitively rock-toned guitar solo contrasts with Denson’s improvisatory flute solo, a turn that retains a foot in the modern-jazz world.

The delicate political territories that Denson writes about, and the style-enhanced engine of this lineup make an intriguing pair. One casts the shadow of sadness and frustration, while the other bathes listeners in a musically gratifying light.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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