Karl Denson Biography

1968, USA. After meeting Lenny Kravitz in 1988, Denson was invited to play tenor saxophone on the rock artist’s Let Love Rule and Mama Said. After a third album with Kravitz, Are You Gonna Go My Way?, horns were dropped but the attention Denson had received as a result of these recordings and the linked promotional tours prompted him to try leadership, including among other ventures the high energy funk band, Tiny Universe. Through the 90s, Denson became very popular with younger contemporary dance audiences across America. Drawing inspiration from the music of Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, he built a loyal following for his enthusiastic playing and up-front showmanship.

In the early 90s he signed with a German label, Minor Music, to make four well-received albums that revealed his abilities as a composer. His associates on these records included Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland. During this same period, Denson toured with Wesley, appearing on Comme Ci Comme Ca, Swing & Be Funky, Amalgamation and Full Circle: From Be Bop To Hip-Hop. Another mid-90s venture was the formation by DJ Greyboy of the Greyboy Allstars, a band that also became very popular, not only with the dance crowd but also with audiences at jazz clubs and festivals. Denson was present at the start of this band, which helped launch acid jazz in the USA, and was one of its leaders. By the late 90s, the Greyboys had begun to come apart but by this time Denson’s name was a big enough draw for his career to prosper. His vital music has been heard at the Newport Jazz Festival and has also been used on television and in movies, the latter including 1998’s Zero Effect. In addition to playing tenor, Denson also plays flute and occasionally sings. He has recorded in duo with Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin And Wood.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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