Karl Denson previews Gnomes and Badgers at NOLA Brewing’s 10th anniversary party, 2/15

Saxophonist, bandleader and songwriter Karl Denson has a busy summer coming up. Besides touring with the Rolling Stones, he will release his latest album, Gnomes and Badgers, on March 8. Denson will play select dates with his band, the Tiny Universe, beginning on Friday night at NOLA Brewery. NOLA was the first brewery to open on the south shore after Hurricane Katrina and the failed federal levees.

Gnomes and Badgers, Denson’s upcoming album, is another in a series of strong funk-based releases that oozes rock ‘n’ roll energy. Local fans will be excited to hear the cut “Change My Way” which was co-crafted by Denson and his “writing mentor,” New Orleans’ own guitar hero Anders Osborne.

The two sides of the album, deep bottom funk and searing rock, are inspired by his long-running jazz-funk unit the Greyboy Allstars and of course his work at his “day job” with the Rolling Stones. The first single is a case in point. “I’m Your Biggest Fan” has stop-on-dime horns, a chiming guitar line, and a driving rock ‘n’ roll beat.

The current version of the Tiny Universe is a dream team and a juggernaut. The rhythm section features Greyboy Allstars bassist Chris Stillwell and former Greyboy drummer Zak Najor as well as keyboardists David Veith and Kenneth Crouch, Denson’s pal from his years in Lenny Kravitz’s band.

Alongside Denson on the frontline is trumpeter Chris Littlefield. The twin-guitar attack of D.J. Williams, a tremendous funk player in both tone and technique, and the Arkansas-born slide and lap-steel virtuoso Seth Freeman, are the secret weapons of the band.

With these two contrasting yet brilliantly complementary pickers in tow, Denson feels like he’s cracked the Tiny Universe’s code. “Now I can write funk and have a rock-n-roll edge,” he says. “It’s the perfect blend of elements.”

For the upcoming album, Denson tapped some of his musical friends including New Orleans keyboardist and vocalist Ivan Neville, the Rolling Stones’ keyboardist and Allman Brothers Band alum Chuck Leavell, guitar-slinging, singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson (jamming with the band in the above vid) and the aforementioned Osborne.

The NOLA Brewing tenth anniversary party, dubbed “Ten Years of Beers,” kicks off at 6 PM. The George Porter, Jr. Trio plays at 7 PM. Denson and the Tiny Universe follow at 8:45 PM with special guest guitar prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer.

Advanced tickets through Thursday night are available here.

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