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Record Review 

The ex-Greyboy Allstars/Lenny Kravitz reedman Denson leaves his Tiny Universe touring band home on his major label debut. A triple threat on flute, alto and tenor saxes, Denson calls in big gun vets -- Medeski, Martin & Wood bassist Chris Wood and keyboard whizzes Leon Spencer Jr. and Ron Levy, as well as the amazing guitarist Marvin Sparks -- to push his swinging, acid-laced bump-city improv instrumentals to new levels.

Like Herbie Hancock, Denson approaches his dance fusion from a jazzman's perspective. Though the rhythms, featuring DJ Logic's turntable skills, are of booty-shaking quality, his snaky sax lines and stinging flute could easily be spliced into a straight-ahead ensemble. Denson's spicy tension-edged tone, acquired from years of playing hard bop and free jazz, adds fire to even the most relaxed tracks here.

The band nails a pocket flexible enough to pack any dance floor on the appropriately titled "Rumpwinder," "I Want the Funk" and "Like Like Dope," the latter featuring a breathless, overdriven flute solo out of the Rahsaan Roland Kirk stylebook grinding atop a swampy Meters' workout.

For the sit-down crowd, Denson slides into "A Shorter Path #1," a traditional trio piece which shifts into "A Shorter Path #2," sublime bossa nova. But there's little relief from the butt-shaking as Logic's disc-scratching nabs the spotlight on the shoulder swaying, 12-minute "Who Are You?," goosing Sparks' George Benson-styled guitar into a percolating pot of supple funk. Dance Lesson #2 will please jazz and jam buffs with its technical excellence injected into an infectiously limber, club-rattling groove.

Karl Denson plays with Tiny Universe at the Variety Playhouse Sat., May 12.

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