High Density - Karl Denson Sells Out San Diego

report filed 6/12/01 7:30 am pdt - Caught a fine double bill last week at the Belly Up. The action started even before I got in the door. Parking was scarce. Did a few loops around the block before finally finding a spot. Cars and people everywhere. The sidewalk in front of the venue was a concrete body buzz with a long line to get in, and at least as many people just hanging out. Can you say 'high density?' Nice folks waiting on line though, so it was all good. Especially for people with tickets. The sign over the ticket window had bad news for all the jammy-come-latelys: this show was sold out!

No surprise. Karl Denson is a SoCal legend and is currently more popular than ever. It's easy to see why. Not only is Denson the consumate player, combining tone and technique to perfection, he's fun to watch. Same with his band. Although I've seen Karl Denson a few times at music & camping festivals, those were much larger shows, with thousands of people in the crowd. Got a much closer view at the Belly Up, which has a capacity max of around 600. Intense but not necessarily serious, classy but far from pretentious, Denson and krewe clearly enjoy themselves onstage.

Mixing in a healthy dose of fresh material from his outstanding new release on Blue Note Records, Dance Lesson #2, the wall to wall crowd was all smiles and gyrating bodies throughout the entire two set performance... total party vibe! Literally. Icing the party cake was Denson's announcement that it was the birthday of trumpet player Andy Cleaves! Sure, the crowd cheered, and yeah, the band smiled secret smiles of co-conspirators waiting for their carefully planned, hush-hush set break celebration, but it was Cleaves who gave everyone a present with his superlative horn work...

Props to the entire band, Brian Jordan on guitar, Ron Johnson on bass, David Veith on keyboards, and drummer Eric Bolivar. These guys all play with passion. If you get a chance to catch Karl Denson and his band in concert, don't miss the opportunity... ain't nobody got nuthin' on these cats!

Was also impressed by the Om Trio from San Francisco, who opened the show with an outstanding set of instrumental jamjazz.

The first thing that caught my ear was Ilya Stemkovsky on drums - lot's of really cool polyrhythms and wide open counterbeats going on in this guy's approach. Bass player Pete Novembre and Brian Felix were also stellar.

This was my first time seeing the Om Trio, or even hearing their music for that matter, and I'm looking forward to the next time we cross paths. Hopefully that'll be for an extended evening of their music rather just a short set teaser...

OK, it hasn't been all fun and games here at Anytime/Anywhere Studios. We actually got some work done since our last update and are happy to post three new CD reviews for your reading pleasure: Outside Inside by the String Cheese Incident, the self-titled debut from Vegas 'world beaters,' Soundstream, and Karl Denson's debut on Blue Note, Dance Lesson #2.

With any luck, we'll have several more CD reviews, as well as a surprise or two for ya, when our adventure in music journalism continues

mrlee.com is happy to sponsor: