Karl Denson’s heroes range from James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone to John Coltrane.
Though he almost always plays jazz-funk infused numbers, he once penned a slow song, “Because of Her Beauty”, and he also once wrote a jazz ballet for the legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
“I’m a jazz guy that likes dance music, and I think of jazz as dance music,” Denson says. “When I think of jazz, I think of Louie Armstrong or Jelly Roll Mortenson, and those guys played dance music or they didn’t get paid.”
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe headlines the eighth annual Joshua Tree Music Festival, Oct. 11-13, at Joshua Tree Lake Campground.
The Joshua Tree Music Festival occurs twice a year, once in May and again in October. The campground area becomes the home for a few hundred to a thousand people over the course of the weekend. Peaceful cohabitation finds guests eating organic food, hiking, checking out Kidsville, doing yoga, resting in the shade, and listening to music.
A former Twentynine Palms resident, Denson is eager to return to an area filled with childhood memories.
“I saw my first solar eclipse there and my first UFO afterwards,” he says. “Who knows though, I was only 3 or 4 years old…”
Lenny Kravitz was Denson’s first long-term boss in the music world. He was Kravitz’s vocalist and saxophone player from 1989-93. Denson reflects back over that time saying, “I learned I wanted to be in my own band from that experience.”
Following his instincts, his first band collaboration became The Greyboy Allstars, which began in 1994, and still plays random gigs.
As if two bands aren’t enough, popular reggae band Slightly Stoopid has snagged Denson the last three years. He recorded on their latest album, “On Top Of The World”.
His touring schedule inspires new music constantly. A new tune was written recently while he was on the road back east.
“I got a new drummer and I was inspired,” says Denson, who promises to premiere “Look out for Millville” for fans at Joshua Tree.
Bands to watch at this weekend's music festival are:
• Colorado’s folk orchestral sensation Elephant Revival
• Rolling Stone magazine darlings The Last Internationale
• Portland’s indie folk rocker Scott Pemberton and singer/songwriter Chris Pureka
• Coachella Valley’s own Spanglish jivin' group Machin’
• Eclectic Dutch songstress trio Zazî
• San Diego’s melodic and fresh The Midnight Pine
• Didgeridoo sonic healing with Paula & Kurosh