Dance Lesson #2

Karl Denson performs at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy on July 6 (late night music hall) and July 7 (main stage).

You’ve got to figure anyone who shares the same nickname as Shaquille O’Neal ("Diesel") has some power, especially if he’s a musician. Such is the case with funky saxophonist Karl Denson, alumnus of Lenny Kravitz and jam band the Greyboy Allstars (though his most effective prior work was through collaborations with fellow acid jazz pioneer DJ Greyboy).

Here on his Blue Note debut, the alto, tenor and flute playing Denson is at his muscular finest. Also, the album is populated with a fine cast of backup players, including bassist Chris Wood (MMW), guitarist Melvin Sparks (Sonny Stitt), organist Leon Spencer (Lou Donaldson), technical virtuoso on the eight-string guitar Charlie Hunter, percussionist EJ Rodriguez (John Lurie) and DJ Logic on turntables for several tracks.

As Denson himself will tell you, he’s a huge fan of Eddie Harris as well as James Brown arranger/trombonist Fred Wesley (with whom he has previously worked), and you can hear their influences here in the smooth, rhythmic approach. While Denson is probably always best in the live medium, fans will not be disappointed in his latest studio offering, which carries some of the greatest aspects of ‘70s jazz into the future.