KD talks about playing with the Stones in this excerpt:Karl Denson's Not-So-Tiny Universe
by Trent MoormanThe Rolling Stones’ newest live member. Alicia Rose
What do you say to Mick Jagger when he calls up and asks you to join the Rolling Stones? "Let me check my day planner"? "Sorry, Mick, I've got a tapestry-making webinar that week"? (I'm riffing here.) No, when Mick Jagger calls, you're on the next plane out of town. I don't care if he's 103 years old—it's the Rolling Stones. San Diego–based saxophonist Karl Denson got that call from Mick Jagger, or Skype call as it were, and Denson is now the Rolling Stones' newest live member. For 30 years, he's been blowing brawny, golden plumes of sax and flute. He's a true master who's seen time with Lenny Kravitz, the Greyboy Allstars, and Slightly Stoopid. His own band, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, hurls a multi-horned charge of jazz, funk, rock, and very infectious boogie.You're playing with the Rolling Stones. Man, congrats! Please, tell me everything. How did you get the call to play with them?
I got the call from my connection with Lenny Kravitz. He was having dinner with Mick Jagger and found out they were looking for a sax player. Over that next week, I had a Skype meeting with Mick, and he hired me. A week after that, I got on a plane and went out on the road with the Rolling Stones. Yeah, the fricking Rolling Stones.Did you know the songs? I saw some footage of you playing "Brown Sugar," and you were throwing down.
They gave me a short list of songs to learn. There's actually not that much stuff with horns in their music. I got in touch with their other sax player, and we decided who would take what solo. I lucked out and got "Brown Sugar."Is Keith Richards like you thought he would be? Indomitable and wily? How the hell is he still smoking all those cigarettes? Did any of the guys surprise you? Please tell me y'all are playing "Bitch."
"Bitch" does get played, yes. It's been so fun. The cool part is that Mick is all super-business. He's taking care of stuff all the time—you can tell, he's got the busy face on. The other guys are real chill. They're hanging out, but they work really
hard. When they rehearse, they get in there and get to work. It's kind of amazing. Mick must have sung for four out of the five hours during the first rehearsal day. Real singing. I was like, "Damn
." He works himself into shape. The band does the same thing. You see that and you realize why those guys are so big. They did "She's So Cold" in rehearsal, and I flipped out—that's the quintessential Stones beat for me right there.Will you continue playing with them?
They have basically invited me on board. I got a welcome-to-the-band dinner and the whole nine yards.What do the Rolling Stones serve for their welcome-to-the-band dinner?
It was Asian. I had my first Peking duck.