Stones sax player Karl Denson will host ‘Exile on Bourbon Street’ in New Orleans

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will host ‘Exile on Bourbon Street’ on Friday at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will host ‘Exile on Bourbon Street’ on Friday at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans. Courtesy

You can’t say woodwind virtuoso Karl Denson is not prolific, especially during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Denson, the “king of late night,” is known for his after-hours sessions during the week of Jazz Fest, playing with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, with whom he once toured, and New Orleans veterans such as Ivan Neville and George Porter Jr.

Since 2014, Denson has been a touring member of the Rolling Stones, playing saxophone for them on songs such as “Brown Sugar” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” On Friday, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, one of the many acts with which he is associated, will pay something of an homage to his bosses Mick and Keith with “Exile on Bourbon Street.” The show starts at 9 and will feature Luther Dickinson and Ivan Neville. Austin’s White Denim will open the show, which is being presented by WWOZ. Tickets start at $39 and are available at Ticketmaster.com.

In an interview with the Sun Herald, Denson said he is looking forward to the “Exile” show and talks about the significance of the historic Stones show in Cuba, which is the subject of the documentary “Havana Moon.”

Last year, you did a tribute to Prince by playing a few of his songs during a Jazz Fest late-night show. This year, you’re tackling the Stones. Can you tell me a little bit about the “Exile” show?

It’s going to be a lot of fun. This gives me an opportunity to lean on the Stones. People are always asking me to play some Stones songs. We’re going to mix it up. We’ll be playing some of their stuff and some of our stuff.

You have Luther Dickinson and Ivan Neville joining you. You’ve played with so many people through the years. Is there anyone you haven’t played with but would like to?

There are so many players that I’m never going to run out of people to play with. I would like to collaborate with Derek Trucks. We keep talking about it but we haven’t made it happen yet.

You were with the Stones when they played the historic gig in Cuba in March 2016. It was the first time the Stones had played there and then-President Barack Obama was in town. What was that like for you?

We were only there for two nights, so we didn’t really get to see a lot of the city. But the show was great. I think the crowd was just shocked. They had never seen anything like that and they were like, “What in the hell is going on here?” They had never seen a rock show like that. Plus, they don’t have a lot of internet so it was all very new to them.