Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More

by Caleb Calhoun

Photos by Scott Shrader

Well shit. Where do you even start with this one. Alright, I got it, here we go… Did you know that if you are one of the two or three best saxophonist’s in the world that you can pretty much cover all of Duane Allman’s guitar solo’s on a woodwind. Well neither did I, but I can tell you, it’s not something I am going to forget anytime soon.

I’m pretty psyched from the get-go tonight. I’ve been working the hell out of The Orange Peel recently and am excited for the open back yard, the hammocks, the river–  all these amenities that only The Salvage Station, as far as I know, offers. In just two years Danny McClinton and company have turned this place into a true gem, and I am happy to be in this environment tonight.


On a tip I arrive early. The opener, Seth Walker Trio, is supposed to be outstanding and I want to catch their entire set.  I have watched some videos but am surprised to see how much jazzier they are in person; like a rustier version of a cross between Ray LaMontagne and Nick Waterhouse.

It’s an older crowd, most of the patrons in their forties at least, but Seth Walker Trio grabs them pretty quickly as they burst through Easy Come and Tomorrow. Still, so far this isn’t a crowd full of dancers. The place is filling up but the half-moon phenomenon, as I like to call it, still has everyone standing at least twelve or fifteen feet from the stage. I roll straight through to the rail where I start dancing my ass off in the open semi-circle, eventually coaxing others forward and leading all of these beautiful horses as close to the water as they can get.

Seth Walker Trio is crushing. Tommy Perkinson is the perfect percussionist for this outfit. He is staying in pocket for whole sections then bringing a clear jazz influence, and the need to deconstruct, to his purposefully crumbling rhythm. As they move through the set list he changes with the songs, backing the trio perfectly and purposefully. Finally, as Myles Weeks takes a ridiculous bass solo during Spirit’s Moving, he takes a break to let the crowd appreciate the virtuoso that Weeks clearly is.

After an energetic Way Past Midnight they bring Seth Freeman, of KDTU to the stage to play the dobro on a beautiful version of Trouble. Then it’s all over but the waiting.


JSS_3001-EditAt 10:45 prompt KDTU takes the stage. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this Allman Brother’s tribute they are currently touring, but what expectations I had are blown out of the water. My notes from the early part of the show read like a fifteen your old stoner — lots of superlatives and not much real content — but I push through the visuals and the elevated heart rate to continue writing things down.

The energy is unbelievable, the music on point, and the set list perfectly planned. The sound is in your face right from the get-go, but the band really warms up by the time they head into Dreams. Karl Denson and guitarist DJ Williams trade solos, leaving the entire crowd breathless and begging for more. They stretch it out and stretch it out and stretch it out, Denson’s saxophone other-worldly, universal; William’s guitar screaming along.

I look at the woman I am dancing with and suggest that maybe, just maybe, we could take Williams home after the show together and show him a good time. She grins ear to ear in agreement. This is Asheville after all – we have good fantasies.

But there is no need to fantasize, as KDTU turns the corner into a smoking Ain’t Wasting Time. Karl Denson is absolutely destroying it on his sax. There are times that I am certain that he is playing more than one note, times where his sound mimics a steel guitar so uncannily that it would be eerie if you weren’t dancing so hard.


They roll through Sunshine Superman and into an epic Elizabeth Reed, a song which serves them as it did the Allman Brothers, gives them a chance to trade solos. Turn by turn they go, clearly supporting each other, but definitely competing as well. Freeman takes the last solo and crushes it, leaving the crowd applauding loudly as they head into drums.

They follow up Elizabeth Reed with another song named after a woman, Sweet Melissa. Denson is on the flute at this point and the riff is eerie, slightly dissonant. The song, not written by them, has become their own, and it’s absolutely perfect.

With only a few more songs to go I am struck by the unified energy and camaraderie that this band shares. If you knew nothing about this group you would never guess that this was essentially a side project. Honestly, you would probably just assume they were all best friends, which, judging from where I am sitting, seems like it would be an accurate assumption.

“The best thing about touring (with KDTU),” Seth Walker had told me earlier, “is that they all really like each other. And you can see that through their music.”

Watching the show this evening I couldn’t agree more. It’s obvious that these six musicians are having about as much fun as it is possible to have.

They encore with yet one more song about a woman, Jessica, and the entire crowd sways and swoons it’s way through to the end. It’s nearly 1:30 when the last notes ring out, the band having played a nearly three hour set. A set through which they clearly put their heart, their joy, and their love into every note.

I have friends that didn’t come because they didn’t want to drop the thirty dollars to get in, but I have to say, as far as that goes, this band is worth every penny of whatever they charge.

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