The infinite funk of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe visits Frisco venue
Ryan Summerlin February 21, 2013
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe comes to Summit County Saturday to play at The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco. Denson appears at major festivals like Bonnaroo and the Montreux Jazz in Switzerland, so this concert is an opportunity to see one of his sets up close and personal. “I can’t remember seeing Karl Denson in a venue this intimate in the past 10 years as he sells out large venues such as The Boulder and Ogden regularly. We are very lucky to have this concert in Frisco,” said Todd Altschuler, The Barkley Ballroom’s co-owner. Denson has developed his work in a variety of musical genres, from being a part of Lenny Kravitz’s band for five years and recording a series of jazz albums – one of them with Miles Davis’ alumni Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette – to joining DJ Greyboy in forming Greyboy Records, releasing the acid-jazz staple, “Freestylin'” and forming the groove band Greyboy Allstars. His latest band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, takes this mix of sounds, highlights vocals and adds funk, rhythm and blues and hip-hop features. The group’s latest release, “Brother’s Keeper,” combines rock, funk and afro beat with special appearances from Meshell Ndegeocello on bass and former Ben Harper/Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford. The lineup for the current tour includes DJ Williams on guitar, Chris Littlefield on trumpet, John Staten on drums, Chris Stillwell on bass and David Veith on keyboards. Denson takes part on vocals, sax and flute. “My style is based in dance,” Denson states on his website. “I love the idea of creating something that naturally makes people want to move.” Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe has shared the stage with diverse artists including Jack Johnson, D’Angelo, James Brown, Dave Matthews Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Allman Brothers, Keane and Maroon 5.
A newcomer to Summit’s live music scene as of December, The Barkley Ballroom has quickly affirmed itself as a prominent local venue, hosting up-and-coming bands as well as big acts like The Malah and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Altschuler reopened the venue, which carries on the tradition of Barkley’s West, which featured live music in the late ’90s and early ’00s, with partner Keegan Casey. “Since I rolled into Colorado on a bicycle with my dog Stanley in a trailer, I have helped create Mousike Magazine and for the last three years have served as marketing director for Telluride Jazz Festival. … I moved to Summit County to be closer to Denver and fell in love with the space that houses The Barkley Ballroom from the first time I stepped inside,” said Altschuler. “One local and Frisco business owner told me he was thinking about moving out of Frisco before the venue opened but we’ve breathed new life into the town. That felt pretty nice to hear.”The music spot differentiates itself by introducing new or little-known bands to the local public for free. “I want to have as much free music as possible. Having 10-plus free shows a month will allow locals to treat the venue as a local bar – somewhere to stop in just to see what’s on tap that night,” Altschuler said. “Those that have been to a lot of the free shows have come away with a new appreciation for bands like Springdale Quartet and Atomga, up-and-coming bands they hadn’t previously heard of.”Altschuler also wants to keep giving locals the opportunity to see renowned artists at the venue, featuring popular groups like John Brown’s Body and Dumpstaphunk. “It might be lofty, but my goal is to have people look back in 20 years on the history of The Barkley Ballroom and remember some of the best live music events they’ve ever seen,” Altschuler said. “Absolutely historical shows like when Widespread Panic played Toad’s Place in 2000 or The Grateful Dead was playing Magoo’s Pizza in the mid-’60s. The room really has all of the characteristics to make that dream a reality – great sound, great energy, and, of course, some of the best music fans in Colorado.”