If you're not dancing, you're not a part of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe.

When he graduated from college, Denson, a California-based jazz/funk artist, originally wanted to play avant-garde saxophone music. He reconsidered after attending a concert by free-jazz artist Cecil Taylor.

"I remember thinking, 'This music is a lot more fun to play than it is to listen to,'" he said, laughing. "From that point on, I thought, 'I'm going to write music that's girl-friendly.'"

Denson originally got his start as a touring member of rock artist Lenny Kravitz's touring band. His current outfit, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, will perform at Rhythm & Brews tonight.


* What: Karl Denson's Tiny Universe.

* When: 9 p.m. today.

* Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.

* Admission: $15.

* Phone: 267-4644.

* Website:


Karl Denson (vocals/sax/flute)

Brian Jordan (guitar)

Chris Littlefield (trumpet)

John Staten (drums)

Chris Stillwell (bass)

David Veith (keys)


1992: "Blackened Red Snapper"

1993: "Herbal Turkey Breast"

1994: "Chunky Pecan Pie"

1995: "Baby Food"

1997: "The D Stands for Diesel"

2001: "Dance Lesson No. 2"

2002: "The Bridge"

2007: "Lunar Orbit"

2009: "Brother's Keeper"


* During the early part of his career, funk/jazz artist Karl Denson named his albums after foods the tracks reminded him of.

* This Halloween, Denson and his band, Tiny Universe, dressed as comic-book superheroes. Denson's costume was of Thor.

Bridging the improvisation and free-form approach of jazz with the danceable groove and instrumentation of funk, Denson has built a 20-year career on being musically flexible.

In addition to working off and on with Kravitz, he has worked as a solo artist, led a jazz trio and co-founded the San Diego-based dance/jazz band Greyboy Allstars, with whom he still performs.

Although being so musically nebulous has occasionally made Denson hard to categorize, it also has opened doors to festivals at both ends of the musical spectrum, from Bonnaroo to the Newport Jazz Festival.

Thanks to their musical similarities to many jam bands, Denson and company have had the opportunity to share the stage with artists ranging from Jack Johnson and James Brown to Maroon 5 and Dave Matthews Band.

With Tiny Universe, Denson has surrounded himself with musicians who thrive on shifting styles throughout the night. Since hitting the summer festival circuit, they've been in top form, he said.

"For the longest time, we called it the Tiny University because I'm throwing all these things at these guys," he said. "It was pretty out of the box for most of them at the beginning.

"Now, we've melded it into this thing, and we're having a great time moving from style to style comfortably. We're on the same page now."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205.


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