Purists claim jazz lost something on its way to becoming a respected art form. Not to suggest jazz (or any genre) shouldn’t be esteemed, but as hard bop and free styles flourished, its creators embraced artistic integrity over immediate rapport with audiences. The concept of “entertainment” became anathema, and “crossover” was synonymous with “sellout.” New generations grew with fans, and players unashamedly welcoming aspects of R&B, rock, reggae, whatever, into jazz — an ever-evolving and inclusive organism. Saxophonist, flutist and bandleader Karl Denson epitomizes this renaissance. While versed in the verities, Denson embraces the iconic funk of Maceo Parker and the JBs, as well as the sizzling soul-jazz vibe of Charles Earland and Dr. Lonnie Smith. Denson’s latest album with his Tiny Universe band, Brother’s Keeper, interlaces soul-kissed melodies, rubbery funk and churning Afrobeat with plenty of passion and insight. Throughout, Denson’s horn is sly, soulful and exultant. Three Blue Lights open at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5588, grogshop.gs). Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show. — Mark Keresman
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