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Benton Evening News - Benton, IL
  • Music Preview: Rolling Stones tribute from an unlikely source

  • The “Sticky Fingers” tour began as a few spot dates last summer in Western U.S. markets, but the response to the shows was so strong, Denson said, he and his band decided to keep the idea afloat for a while. A new stretch of East Coast dates kicks off Tuesday, starting with Boston, Mass.

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  • How much does Karl Denson dig the Rolling Stones? Enough to devote an entire tour to covering his favorite Stones record, 1971’s landmark “Sticky Fingers,” and getting his Tiny Universe bandmates on board with doing it night after night.
    You read that right: “Sticky Fingers,” start to finish, “Brown Sugar” through “Moonlight Mile,” from a band better known for sizzling, horn-led jams and high-octane live shows but more than up to the task of playing Mick, Keef and company through its jazz-funk prism.
    The “Sticky Fingers” tour began as a few spot dates last summer in Western U.S. markets, but the response to the shows was so strong, Denson said, he and his band decided to keep the idea afloat for a while. A new stretch of East Coast dates kicks off Tuesday, starting with Boston, Mass.
    “We had hoped it would spark people’s interest, but it’s done really well,” Denson said. “The Stones are always an easy choice for something everyone can relate to, so I picked my favorite album.”
    The Tiny Universe, which rebooted as saxophonist/flautist Denson’s full-time band in 2009 after a few years of its namesake focusing primarily on other projects, is between albums following the well-received “Brother’s Keeper” (2009). Its next release is expected this year, but Denson said he and his management had talked about doing a string of concept shows in the interim, focused on KDTU interpreting a famous album.
    “The first choice had been ‘Aqualung’ by Jethro Tull, because of the flute work,” Denson said, laughing. “But we decided that probably not as many people over a broad demographic would know that record.”
    Some “Sticky Fingers” cuts – uptempo horns-heavy rockers like “Brown Sugar” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” – are more obviously in Denson’s wheelhouse than others. No doubt the idea of KDTU, known for its sizzling jazz-funk workouts and throttling live performances, tackling mellower Stones country songs like “Wild Horses” and “Dead Flowers” took some getting used to.
    “It’s stuff we don’t usually touch in our show, so it’s been a great learning experience for everybody,” Denson said. “But I’ve always been a fan of lots of different styles of music so it was a good opportunity for everyone to step out of our box. My guys were a little bit taken aback at first. But they listen well and study well, and once they’d done it a few times said, gotcha, gotcha.”
    A listen to some of the bootlegs from the earlier “Sticky Fingers” KDTU shows reveals something interesting: as much as Denson and his crew do justice to the best-known songs from the album, they positively crush the less-remembered, mid-album tunes like the Delta blues “You Gotta Move” and the aching “Sister Morphine,” which in KDTU’s hands tends to turn into a 10-plus minute psychedelic-flavored jam.
    Page 2 of 2 - “That they are kind of lesser known just made us want to treat them a little differently,” he said. “With ‘You Gotta Move’ we went back and listened to the Mississippi Fred McDowell original, and then the way the Stones did it, and we just dug in and turned it into this kind of raucous brawl at the bar. And ‘Sister Morphine,’ I decided to write in a big horn solo at the end of it that takes it somewhere really different than where the Stones go with it. We’re pretty true to them and the album, but we’ve added our own ideas on top.”
    The concert format is two sets, the first being “Sticky Fingers” in its entirety and the second the usual KDTU throwdown that fans of the band are used to. There’s an added element: New Orleans-based slide guitarist Anders Osborne, an up-and-comer in his own right, will not only open the show with his own blues-rock trio, but will also join KDTU for the entire Stones set.
    Denson has a new record coming with the reunited Greyboy Allstars, and has been recording and playing shows with fellow San Diego musicians Slightly Stoopid, the reggae and hip-hop-tinged acoustic rockers. But he’s made it clear that KDTU is once again his main pursuit, and next up for the band is a new album, tentatively titled “Cheerleader” and due this summer.
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