Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe keeps it hot at Hot Summer Nights on July 18 | VailDaily.com
Caramie Schnell
Special to the Daily

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Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe keeps it hot at Hot Summer Nights on July 18

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe have been performed before on the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater stage in Vail for Hot Summer Nights. The band returns Tuesday, July 18, for a free show.

If you go …

Who: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe plays the Hot Summer Nights free concert series.

When: Tuesday, July 18. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; music begins at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail.

Cost: Free.

More information: The Hot Summer Nights concert series continues July 25 with the Shooter Jennings Band. Visit http://www.vvf.org for more information.

VAIL — One of Vail's favorite bands returns to town for a free show today, and for Karl Denson — of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe — the feeling is very much mutual.

"I love Vail, and have great friends there, too," said Denson, who will perform at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater as part of Hot Summer Nights free concert series tonight at 5:30 p.m.

"Playing in the summer is not nearly as memorable as playing in the winter. I've played some very cold shows in Vail."

No matter the temperature outside, Denson and his cohorts are sure to put the "hot" in Hot Summer Nights. Denson got his break in Lenny Kravitz's band, and throughout the years he's performed with some of the best — Steve Winwood, Phil Lesh, Stanton Moore, Blind Boys of Alabama, Blackalicious and more.

Now along with heading up Tiny Universe, Denson travels the world with The Rolling Stones, playing his saxophone to record crowds everywhere from South America to New Zealand.

"The Rolling Stones situation is just surreal," he said. "Super fun, super plush and I get to hang out with The Rolling Stones. Pinch me."

'Busy Writing'

At the upcoming Hot Summer Nights show, fans can expect to hear some new Tiny Universe material from a forthcoming studio album slated for 2017.

"We're busy writing now, so new songs are popping up, as well as new covers," said Denson, who has been known to cover Prince, The White Stripes and Beastie Boys among others.

Recently the band covered "Gossip" by Cyril Neville, as well as "Just Got Paid" by ZZ Top in the same show, he said.

"I think it's pretty fun to be able to make those two songs work in the same set," Denson said. "The response has been great."

Along with the new songs and fun covers, expect classic Tiny Universe material from "The Bridge" (2002), "Brother's Keeper" (2009) and "New Ammo" (2014) as well.

The current band touring lineup is comprised of Richmond guitarist DJ Williams; Soulive drummer Alan Evans; The Greyboy Allstars' bassist Chris Stillwell; Crush Effects' keyboardist David Veith; Seattle trumpeter Chris Littlefield; and ace slide and lap steel guitarist Seth Freeman. Along with these familiar faces, there will be a few surprises, too, Denson said.

"We will have Sput from Snarky Puppy playing drums as well as Kenneth Crouch of the legendary Andre Crouch gospel family playing keyboards," he said.

Getting there

The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater is located east of Golden Peak at Ford Park in Vail. Concert attendees are asked to park at the main Vail Village parking structure, with overflow parking at the Lionshead Village parking structure. Catch a free town of Vail shuttle to the show.

Once in Ford Park, golf cart shuttle service is available. Once inside the concert venue (a non-smoking venue), picnics with commercially-sealed non-alcoholic beverages are permitted, as are legless lawn chairs, blankets and umbrellas. Bikes, skateboards and dogs are prohibited at the amphitheater.