The legendary San Diego jazz collective, The Greyboy Allstars are performing their first record West Coast Bugaloo ('95) in it's entirety along with original support from funk and jazz trombonist- Fred Wesley (of James Brown fame) at the Belly Up on December 30th. In anticipation of this rare performance, Sounddiego caught up with Greyboy Allstars co-founder, Karl Denson to talk about his 20+ year long career in what a band that he describes as a total democracy. Grab your tickets for the show, here.
Nada Alic- You've been playing music for over 20 years! What an accomplishment.
Karl Denson- I've been playing professionally since 1987- but the Greyboy Allstars, we came together in 93 so we've been together about 20 years.
NA- What do you attribute your long career to?
KD- Hard work!
NA- Why do you think the jazz/funk/soul genres never seem to go out of style?
KD- It's like classical music in a way, there's certain styles of music that if you do them fairly well, you'll always have an audience of some sort of audience. It's not like we're doing cricket with this sort of thing but we can manage to put 600-700 people in a room at any given moment, which is great.
NA- It seems you are loyal to the classic acid-jazz/funk vibe- when everything was pre-technology, even recording live and cutting tapes, what are your thoughts on technology's growing role in music?
KD- Technology is awesome in the right hands. there's some stuff that I don't prefer and theres a lot of stuff that I do prefer. What we do, we play together which is really fun, and so some people don't have that opportunity to be an instrumentalist and play together, it's just a different world- they're all instruments. Recording live, you get the interplay between musicians, that's the beauty of the jazz aesthetic, you're always listening to each other and you're trying to communicate while you're playing over structure. For Greyboy Allstars its totally intuitive now.
NA- Karl Denson's Tiny Universe- where does that fit in the Greyboy Allstars?
KD- Tiny Universe is my main gig now, the Allstars took a break years ago so that everyone could do their own thing. And Elgin, the guitar player is a very successful film composer so he's up in Hollywood doing scores all the time. So we kind of get together when we can because we really enjoy playing together. This is kind of a side project for all of us but it's something that we decided to keep alive.
NA- It seems like there's a collaborative spirit to the band- from writing together etc- yet everyone seems to have their own artistic projects going on, do you collaborate together?
KD- Yes, from time to time, Chris the bass player is actually in the Tiny Universe so we're together all the time. And you know, we'll have Elgin help produce things, it's definitely a family.
NA- You toured earlier this year, what have you been up to since then?
KD- I've been working on my record and we just finished the fall tour of the Sticky Fingers record- we played the Rolling Stones sticky fingers record in it's entirety. And we had Anders Osborn, a New Orleans singer songwriter/great guitar player that joined us, he's really awesome.
NA- As a collective, you haven't put out a release since What Happened to Television- is that in the works?
KD- Yes, we are mixing it right now! We have a large amount of material right now, we're trying to figure out what to put on the record, what to save for an EP. We're really kind of a great democracy, we kind of let Mike Elgin handle a lot of stuff because all the stuff that has to do with recording, he has a studio that he works out of all the time. We let him kind of take care of the mixing part.
NA- For your upcoming Belly Up show, you'll be performing West Coast Boogaloo, why did you choose that record?
KD- Well, it's our first record, it's kind of, you know, it's the touchstone for most Greyboy Allstars fans so we decided to go back to the beginning and it gives us a chance to bring back Fred Wesley.
NA- What does the future hold for the Greyboy Allstars?
KD- We're working on some Spring stuff- like an April/May couple of runs. We're looking to re-mastering west coast bugaloo and then probably drop an EP in the fall or something like that.