Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2014: Chick Corea

Etienne Charles: Creole Soul

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Trumpet superstar Etienne Charles was born on the island of Trinidad, but if you’ve ever heard him play, you probably already know that. His Trinidadian roots extend into every facet of his performance, giving him a fresh new sound which inspires in listeners a sense of being a part of something big. Not since Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro-Cuban revolution of the 40s has a mixture of styles been so refreshingly fun!

Only in his early thirties, Charles has already played with huge names such as Wynton Marsalis, Maria Schneider, Frank Foster and Benny Golson. An alumnus of the Julliard School, Florida State University and the Henry Mancini Institute, Charles is currently assistant professor of jazz trumpet at the Michigan State University College of Music. He has released four albums as a bandleader and has taken the jazz community by storm with his entertaining, sophisticated and occasionally heart-wrenching originals and arrangements.

Etienne Charles carries the imprints of four generations of Trinidadian musicians, beginning with his great grandfather who brought his folk music to Trinidad from Martinique. His grandfather was a prominent calypso musician, and his father was part of a progressive Trinidadian steel band. This rich musical history, coupled with his father’s extensive record collection, allowed Charles to develop his signature sound: a perfect balancing act between Caribbean, African, and jazz.

Etienne Charles’ expressive improvisational style, technical prowess, and inventive blend of traditional melodies and modern arranging techniques make his music richly varied and constantly entertaining. His four albums as a leader have pleased both critics and audiences. His unique sound and refreshing updates of traditional Afro-Caribbean tunes on Culture Shock, his 2006 debut as a bandleader, and his 2009 album Folklore, ensured he was quickly recognized and respected in the jazz community.

His 2011 record Kaiso delivered many feel-good, entertaining tracks—you can feel him really digging into the joy of accessible, lighthearted music. His new release is Creole Soul, an eclectic mix of covers (even one by Bob Marley, reimagined by Charles) and fun originals like the playful calypso closing tune “Doin’ the Thing.” Charles’ imaginative, emotive playing from the first notes to the last on this album makes it one you can’t afford to miss.

You have a chance to experience Etienne Charles’ infectious energy live at what will certainly be one of the most entertaining shows of the season. He opens this year’s Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series on September 20 with the Etienne Charles Quintet: Brian Hogans on alto, Jacques Schwarz-Bart on tenor, Kris Bowers on piano and Fender, Ben Williams on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums. While he’s in the city, Charles will also give an open masterclass at the University of Manitoba—another great opportunity to soak up this artist’s tremendous talent and musical insight.

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