Local Artist, Karl Denson, Talks New Album And Inspiration
Karl Denson is a San Diego saxophonist, flutist and vocalist who tours regularly with The Rolling Stones. His musical touch is highly sought after by artists like Lenny Kravitz, the Allman Brothers, Slightly Stoopid and Blackalicious. Aside from album credits, Denson leads his own band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
Their new album, "Gnomes and Badgers," is a multi-genre dance party with a message of love and joy. The sound is James Brown-inspired funk and soul mixed with foot-stomping blues and the spontaneous spirit of jazz.
When not on tour, Denson calls San Diego home. He joins Midday Edition Thursday to talk about his new album.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe are performing and celebrating the release of "Gnomes and Badgers" on Friday, March 15 at The Music Box located at 1337 India Street in San Diego.
Kaye PBS is supported by the law firm of Mintz working with startups and growing companies Mintz legal services can help clients raise capital secure space and protect intellectual property to achieve strategic goals. More at MedStar calm. Mintz built on excellence driven by change. Saxophone player flutist and vocalist Carl Denson tours regularly with the Rolling Stones has collaborated with Lenny Kravitz as album credits with the Allman Brothers slightly stupid and black militias to name a few. And on top of all that leads his own band Carl Denton's tiny universe. Their new album gnomes and badgers is a multi genre dance party with a message from James Brown inspired in the pocket funk and soul to foot stomping blues and the spontaneous spirit of jazz. When not on tour Karl Denson calls San Diego home and he joins us in studio before he heads out on tour to support his new album. Carl thanks for joining us on mid-day edition. Thanks Jay. How are you doing. Can't complain. Your new album has an all star lineup including Chuck Laval keyboardist for Rolling Stones and Allman Brothers New Orleans guitar legend Anders Osborne. A very eclectic sound very intriguing title gnomes and badgers. How did you come up with that title and what's this album all about. Well the gnomes and badgers idea is really you know I was trying to come up with a blues title for the record because it's truly for me it's a blues record it's about people communicating love Hey you know all that stuff but the gnomes and badgers idea just came up from a throwaway title from the gray boy all stars that I thought would be a great kind of a conversation starter to get people thinking about communication and so do you think music has the potential to heal the current political divide in our country. Does that communication help. I do. I think it has. I think it has the potential. You know everybody's listening the same music. So we've got to we've got to get you know a lot of different musicians from different genres kind of on the same page I think to to help pull people back towards the center of just being human. And you know and I think if we could do a little bit better job with our maybe our religious leaders being a little bit more clear about what's really going on that would help also. And I heard a song of yours change my way. What's the message there that message is is meant for all the people that are hating on the others you know and the idea of change my way is is it really is about the first thing you see in the video. As far as text goes is be kind to strangers. They might be angels and that I got from a Bible scripture you know about entertaining angels and not knowing who you're actually dealing with. And you know just like the Mother Teresa what I do for these people I'm doing for Christ kind of idea and that's really what I'm trying to get people to think about. You know that tribalism is leading us to be really selfish and we need to stop that. So you really are trying to use your music to inspire people to do and live better. Yeah. Exactly. Well. We'll. See. Take us back to what led you here you had previously worked on Soul Train. Just finished five years recording and touring with Lenny Kravitz and then around 1992 co-founded the gray boy all stars and began your solo career as well. Tell us about that time in San Diego music. That particular scene and that time in your career. Well I met D.J. Grey Boy I was I was touring with Lenny Kravitz and I had just gotten my my jazz record deal in Europe when D.J. Grable and I recorded a song called unwind your mind and it was a dance track and I went back to Europe touring and I hear my my tune on the on the at the dance clubs and and then I left Lenny Kravitz to do my own thing at the end of 93 came home and D.J. Grey Boy who's putting a band together to play his record release party for freestyle. And I walked into a garage and there were the gray boy all stars and instantly we were like wow we sound pretty good. So we started playing at this club down in downtown and it was a little tiny club the green circle and it became all the rage for for a generation of people. Your work with San Diego legends like the gray boy all stars influenced our current music scene from soul jazz to hip hop and the tiny universe helped give way to the jam band scene with such a diverse background and skills. What influences you as a musician just music and funk you know I'm a jazz guy buy from at heart but it's always been with a healthy dose of funk and dance. So I just I like dance music right. And sometimes that's difficult to do with jazz. Right. To kind of just get people on the floor. Dancing. Well I just think people don't think of it together. But if you go back to the history of jazz the roots of jazz is dance. You know Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton those guys were making people dance. That was their job. So I just you know tried to get back to that tradition in my mind. You wear many hats as a touring musician a session musician and a father of three. Did those experiences help shape your music for sure. I mean if you're if you're living and breathing then something should change from year to year and I definitely am trying to you know absorb it all I can right. It's it's a lot to juggle. And you also seeing play saxophone and flute. Is that difficult to write songs for all three. No. You know what I just mainly I write songs and that the instrument comes way later in the process. So I can't really consider myself a composer first and foremost. So you know whether I sing or whether I play saxophone the song will dictate that. All right. And you tour around the world but keep coming back to San Diego what do you love about the music scene here. Well I just love Southern California. I'm a I'm a Southern California. And you know I've traveled around the world but when I come home there's nothing better than this place. And I think we just had a fortunate convergence. You know when when the gray boy also started that we actually were on the same page and kind of created this this musical genre. You know we we call it West Coast Boogaloo. That's the name of the first gray boy all right here. And and it's really a real thing that. We have that other places don't have. All right. And back to your new album what can we expect to hear. It's really you know it's a dance record. So you'll put it on loud and dance around and take your time absorbing the lyrics but I think you'll find you know hopefully they're inspiring and they'll make you you know be nicer to people. That's what I would like people to get from the record. All right Carl Denson thank you so much for stopping by. Thank you A.J.. Well. Some. Only here is in UK PBS podcast about the place where San Diego and Juana meet who at six years old says I'm gonna go to America tonight only here. Tell stories you would only find in a border town. It's always been a part of my life. Being a border child yet only here. Wherever you get your podcasts.