When he is not blasting horn solos for the Rolling Stones at stadium shows, Karl Denson tours at much more modest-sized clubs with his super-tight group of musicians that form the Tiny Universe. The Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe show at the Teragram Ballroom in Downtown Los Angeles delivered amazing soul and funk that kept a spellbound audience at the standing-room only club dancing for the entire two-hour set.
Denson put on his usual heroic display of scorching saxophone and flute solos. He also performed some energetic dance steps while his band mates rocked out. The current lineup has solidified the band’s funky groove. Lap, pedal-steel and slide guitarist Seth Freeman brings a solid blues-rock element to the mix, while the excellent drumming of Alan Evans (from Soulive) accentuates the low end. Longtime bandmates bassist Chris Stillwell, keyboardist David Veith, trumpeter Chris Littlefield and guitarist DJ Williams all had chances to shine during the set.
Show highlights included a sizzling version of “My Baby Likes to Boogaloo,” the lead vocals from Alan Evans on “Down, Down, Down” and the super funky “Hang Me Out to Dry.” The band also broke out a new song, “I’m Your Biggest Fan,” that will be on their soon-to-be-released new album. “Funky on My Back” featured a sweet keyboard solo by David Veith and some of Denson’s finest flute work. Freeman displayed some amazing slide guitar technique on the heavy blues tune “When I Get Home” and the band finally closed the set with another new tune, “So Real,” that has some great horn arrangements flowing between Chris Littlefield and Denson. The group came back quickly for an encore and did not disappoint with a funky cover of Steely Dan’s “Show Biz Kids.”