For the first time I have seen, tonight The House of Blues hosted a late night, 2am show featuring Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. The reason for this unusually late booking was Karl Denson played as guest at the Widespread Panic and Govt Mule show earlier Saturday evening, at The Joint. Even though I had never heard of Karl Denson, I appreciate live well composed jazz and it has been a while since I have seen a great jazz performance.
Due to the late start time, I did not expect a large audience turnout, but was even more surprised to find only thirty people inside when we arrived. After nearly and hour had passed, with no sign from the band or a crowd, I was just waiting for the word that the show had been cancelled. At about 3 am, people began arriving at a steady pace, and within fifteen minutes the band hit the stage.
With no formal announcement, the curtains were pulled back and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe began to play. The band was composed of himself on vocals/flute/sax/percussion, a guitar, a bassist, horns/harmonica, piano, and a drummer. They jammed out several lengthy songs back to back, with seemingly little effort. Their style was on the funky side, music was well layered and transitioned, highlighted by lyrics here and there. I loved the diversity in every song, each followed his trademarked groove, yet was completely different from the one before. It was amazing to see Karl’s true artistry while playing the flute or saxophone, and his ability to jump right in to soulful vocals following a winded solo.
As each song passed, more people filled the venue, the dancefloor became more crowded and the dancing was more intense. Karl Denson was still going strong, fueled by an audience that continued to grow. By 4am they had already completed nearly a full set, including: Everything, How Fine Is That, Bag of Funk, Groove On, Shake it Out, and Mighty Rebel. By now the early morning hours were staring to wear me thin. After leaving the venue, I was once again surprised to find there was a line outside the box office waiting for tickets.
For this concert, unfortunately I felt completely out of the loop. Many people wore feathered hats and at least 80% of his audience did not arrive until 4 am or later. If I had known, and arrived later, I am sure I would have stuck around to see his complete, two-set performance. In the days following the show, I explored his website and listened to his music, and was quite impressed with what I heard. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is highly talented and well composed. If you like jazz, classic funk, or even reggae, his music is right up your alley. Hopefully he will come back to Las Vegas, as I would like to give him another chance.
For a sample of his live performance, check out my video: