Karl Denson's Tiny Universe: Record Release Celebration

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe: Record Release Celebration

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe (9:30 PM)

Tropa Magica (8:30 PM)

Thu, March 14, 2019

8:00 pm

Adv Tix $25.00 / DOS Tix $27.00

This event is all ages

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Karl Denson's Tiny Universe - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
KARL DENSON’S TINY UNIVERSE
Gnomes & Badgers

Singer and saxophonist Karl Denson fronts his band the Tiny Universe as if he’s preaching the gospel. Merging funk, soul, rock, jazz, blues and more, his energy and spirit are contagious, while his songwriting serves a larger message of fellowship—across generations, genders, religions and cultures. Not surprisingly then, he’s none too pleased with the current state of political discourse. Thus the reason why KDTU’s new album, Gnomes & Badgers (out 3/8 on Seven Spheres Records), is Denson’s hard-grooving answer to these tragically divisive times.

“As a writer and a human being, I’m affected by what goes on around me,” Denson says. “I’ve always been interested in politics, and what I’m seeing now just disturbs me. I saw this idea of Gnomes & Badgers—which are the different people in the world, the different parties on the left and the right—as a great way to frame the political debate and the debate about listening to each other. Somebody needs to say something, and hopefully I can say it in a way that will make people reconsider how they think about things.”

That theme of compassionate exchange is showcased especially well on choice cuts like “Time to Pray” and “Change My Way,” the latter co-crafted by Denson and his “writing mentor” Anders Osborne. But through the music’s blues essence, an idea of empathy traverses the album in full. “There’s some heartache in there that is hopefully concealed well enough to make people happy while still feeling it,” Denson explains. “To me this is really a blues record. It’s a blues about love; it’s a blues about life. It’s about people’s relationships.”

To aid him in his mission, Denson tapped some of his legendary friends, including The Rolling Stones’ keyboardist and Allman Brothers Band alum Chuck Leavell, guitar-slinging singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson, New Orleans guitar hero Anders Osborne, Austin producer and guitarist Adrian Quesada and NOLA R&B royal Ivan Neville. There’s no doubt Denson is also drawing influence and inspiration from his other main gigs, as a touring member of The Rolling Stones and the linchpin of the beloved jazz-funk unit the Greyboy Allstars.

Collectively the process of creating Gnomes & Badgers led to the current itineration of the Tiny Universe. After recording in various studios over a two-year period, Denson couldn’t find the cohesion he was after and ending up scrapping his work, save for three tracks. “So we went back to the drawing board,” he says, “and in the process I kind of dialed my band in.”

The resulting lineup is nothing less than a juggernaut. In the rhythm section, the Tiny Universe features Greyboy bassist Chris Stillwell and former Greyboy drummer Zak Najor, as well as keyboardists David Veith and Kenneth Crouch, Denson’s pal from his years in Lenny Kravitz’s band. Alongside Denson on the frontline is trumpeter Chris Littlefield, and providing the lineup’s secret weapon of sorts is the twin-guitar attack of D.J. Williams, a tremendous funk player in both tone and technique, and the Arkansas-born slide and lap-steel virtuoso Seth Freeman. With those two contrasting yet brilliantly complementary pickers in tow, Denson feels like he’s cracked the Tiny Universe’s code. “Now I can write funk and have a rock-n-roll edge,” he says. “It’s the perfect blend of elements.”

In designing the signature meld of grit and groove that defines Gnomes & Badgers, Denson had plenty of role models to check out. With his own demos scattered into the mix, he listened to a playlist of essential rock-tinged funk and psychedelic soul throughout his writing sessions. Indeed, it’s hard not to hear Funkadelic in the opening roar of “Can We Trade,” or Rufus featuring Chaka Khan in the late-night soul of “Just Remember,” or Tower of Power in the horn-driven, power-funk of “Time to Pray,” or Betty Davis in the rough-and-tough funk-rock of “Change My Way.”

Elsewhere, Denson’s song-craft summons up Sly and the Family Stone, Labelle, Cymande, James Brown and Stevie Wonder. The project’s lone cover, a killer take on Cyril Neville’s late-’60s single “Gossip,” underscores Denson’s savvy taste in programming. Denson’s previous release New Ammo featured select covers by the Beatie Boys, Cold War Kids and the White Stripes.

In the end these hip, historically savvy tunes are just a delivery system for Denson’s philosophy of understanding. “I was very outspoken early on, but I’ve also really tried to [express my views] in a loving way and tried to be a good listener,” he says. “I’m still trying to connect with my audience and people around me, in terms of trying to keep all of us responsible for what we say and do.”
Tropa Magica - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Tropa Magica
Pacheco Brothers, David and Rene, began their prolific music careers as Thee Commons; underdogs in the East L.A. music scene. Inspired by the Roots of Chicha compilations and the psych rock sounds coming out of Southern California they embraced both worlds with open arms. Unable to properly play “cumbia” rhythms they quickly learned from their peers in Boyle Heights and gave their best interpretation of the genre. High-spirited and determined they worked on a formula that would become their signature “Psychedelic Cumbia Punk” sound. A sound, not latino enough for the Mexicans nor surf enough for the psych-punks. This paradoxical approach, gregarious attitude, and live wire shows landed them slots on West Coast festival favorites, namely Coachella, Desert Daze, and Tropicalia. LA Weekly made it clear: "If Thee Commons aren’t the best live band in Los Angeles, they’re damn near the top.”
However, after 3 LP’s and a collection of EP’s and singles, the brothers Pacheco decided to work on a different live and studio sound. Seeking a new sound they were inspired by the likes of Django Reinhardt, Joan Sebastian, Edith Piaf, Meridian Brothers and obscure soundtracks by Nino Rota. Yet, rather than start from scratch the brothers expanded on their “psychedelic cumbia punk” sound and reshaped it with a cinematic, orchestrated and carnivalesque twist. With the support of their friends and family they moved forward with the idea to rebrand and start anew. Focusing on their song craft, they began to experiment with different instrumentations and working with a myriad of studio musicians. Maturing as songwriters the brothers are now faced with the challenge of presenting their studio recordings onto a live stage. All the meanwhile, they are also endlessly working on converting new and previous Thee Commons fan to join the Tropa Magica caravan.
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change