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Tiny Sticky Universe

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Karl Denson
  • Photo by Bruce C Moore.
  • Karl Denson.


This Thursday legendary jazz and funk artist Karl Denson and his group Tiny Universe will come to The Vogue to give fans a very unique musical experience: a jazz rendition of the entire Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers.

“I’ve always liked that album, the darkness of it,” said Denson, during a phone interview last weekend.

Denson—a singer who plays the sax and flute—referred specifically to the songs “Sister Morphine” and “Dead Flowers,” which, among others on the album, contain overt references to drug addiction.

“It’s a very heroin album; when I realized what it was all about, I was very taken by it,” added Denson.

Denson’s Tiny Universe, along with special guest Anders Osborne, will perform the entire 10-song album start to finish on Thursday. Along with the two mentioned tracks above, Sticky Fingers includes such classic songs as “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and the sublimely gritty “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin.” Released in 1971, the album, while considered one of the Stones’ best, is also one of the group’s most low-key and indeed gloomy outputs.

But, 1971 was a gloomy time for the Stones, as they were still reeling from the disastrous Altamont Free Concert and the mysterious death of their estranged founder Brian Jones in 1969. For them and a lot of other rock and roll bands, the '60s had come to a grinding halt.

Denson said he had been kicking around the idea of performing an entire album live for some time.

“We tour so much, a lot of our fans know what to expect,” said Denson. “We wanted to do this to give them something different,” he added.

Denson said his first choice of albums was Jethro Tull’s Aqualung because of the flute parts, but that idea was scrapped because of questions about how well the album would translate to a live show.

Sticky Fingers, on the other hand, has translated extremely well to Tiny Universe’s mix of jazz, funk, and R&B. The band’s most recent album, Brother’s Keeper (released in 2009), has a mélange of influences, as KDTU displays echoes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Donald Byrd, and even some of the subdued, Afro-beat cool of Fela Kuti.

Denson’s smooth, quick, high-toned voice rings out like Lenny Kravitz’s at times. No wonder, since Denson worked with Kravitz on Let Love Rule (1989) and Mama Said (1991), and toured with him for three and half years. At times, the two sound so similar, it can make one wonder who influenced who. Denson, however, is fairly quiet when asked about his Kravitz days.

“Oh man, that was a long time ago,” he said with a bit of a chuckle.

Swedish-born guitarist and singer Anders Osborne will open for KDTU and join Denson’s band during their set as well. Along with Sticky Fingers, Denson said his performance will also include some new, unreleased material that KDTU will soon be including in a new full-length album.

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