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The Karl Denson Trio: Lunar Orbit

“Won’t Somebody” resides just a few short steps from smooth jazz. Over an upbeat organ groove, Karl Denson blows a perky melody on alto instead of his usual tenor. But Denson is no smoothie. When it comes time to solo, though, he avoids funky riffage in favor of a thoughtful, meaty solo that’s anything but slick. It proves that wherever the saxophonist appears, be it here, with the Greyboy Allstars, with Lenny Kravitz or in his own Tiny Universe, he never dumbs down his jazz chops. Lunar Orbit takes him in a straight-ahead groove-jazz direction, in a way that could lure both contemporary fans and traditionalists. The disc isn’t the work of one trio, but of Denson with three different organ players and two drummers. A conga player appears on half the tracks, calling the band name into question but adding to the groove. The title track’s spacey, lumbering groove might be geared more toward his acid-jazz constituents, but it stands equal with the second-line beat of “Dingo Dog Sled” and the tenor wails that launch “The Plain Truth.” Denson switches to flute and effects-laden saxophone on a few tracks, which adds to the dimension of this blend of grooving and blowing.

Originally Published