The Boogaloo Beast: An Interview with Karl Denson.
By McClain Johnson
Karl Denson is the saxophone player for jazz funk group the Greyboy Allstars and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. His latest release is the Greyboy Allstars’ album, “What Happened to Television?” I sat down with Karl before his recent gig at Tipitina’s to discuss his influences, the differences between playing in Greyboy and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and the strength of the New Orleans music scene. The Greyboy Allstars will return to Tipitina’s for a late night show on May 3rd.

Who are some of your major influences in terms of the Greyboy style?
Grant Green, Boogaloo Joe Jones, most of the guys are really big Meters fans, James Brown, and Wayne Shorter.

What was it about the Meters’ sound that really influenced you?
It’s just funky as hell. The biggest influence with this band is that we are a boogaloo band. Boogaloo is mid to late 60s jazz, where it was getting funky. Wayne Shorter and Horace Silver both helped to bring that sound in.

Do you approach the studio and playing live differently?
The studio is a whole another beast. In this band, everyone is strong enough on their own that we don’t really need to be told what to do. We just go in and take a simple idea and start working with it. Everyone then creates their own part, which is really cool because you can’t do that with every band.

The Greyboy Allstars are a funk band at their core, but how are you able to transition between styles so easily to create your own sound?
We’ve been doing this for a long time. When we first started, it was just listening to the same music all the time. We developed the same tastes together, and then everybody’s individual tastes start to show. There’s just a talent level that everybody’s at. Everyone plays their instrument well, and we share the same influences. Luckily, we can actually pull it off.

It is amazing the way you guys gel so well together. That’s really the key to your sound.
I’ve been in tons of bands, and it doesn’t happen that often on this level.

Do you approach playing with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe differently than you do with Greyboy?
I’m a lot freer in this situation. It’s a democracy, so everyone is just doing their thing. They wouldn’t listen even if you did tell them what to do. Everyone is strong enough that when they want to do something, it is easy to follow.

Earlier, you said you feel influenced by New Orleans’ funk. What do you like most about playing here when you come into town?
All the clubs, and the fact that you might get to see something really cool while you are here. I only come here during Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, but there is always stuff going on. I was here once after Jazz Fest. I went and saw some of the local music, and it was insane. You only get this kind of stuff here or New York. You can just go out to some corner bar and hear somebody really shred.

For more information on the Greyboy Allstars, check out,http://www.greyboyallstars.com/

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