Etienne Charles: Creole Soul
Well-versed as a recording artist, composer, arranger, Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University, Etienne Charles is a multi-facited jazz artist who speaks a vast variety of musical dialects in an improvisation-fueled setting with the expertise and knowledge to match. “Jazz is Creole music,” says Charles who was born in Trinidad, relocated first to Florida and then New York to further his jazz studies (graduating, respectively, from Florida State’s and Juilliard’s jazz programs) and today teaches jazz trumpet at Michigan State University. “As a person in the new world, I’ve been influenced by so much music. And my family has a mixed background, with French Caribbean, Spanish and African roots as well as Venezuelan influences. I come from a fusion of rhythms, a fusion of cultures.”
As befitting an artist who excels with such a diversity of musical styles, Charles has performed with a range of musicians, from Roberta Flack, Rene Marie and David Rudder to Wynton Marsalis, Johnny Mandel, the Count Basie Orchestra and Maria Schneider. He also worked with steel pan all-star Len “Boogsie” Sharpe as well as jazz masters Frank Foster and Benny Golson. The New York Times calls Charles an auteur who is “one of [jazz’s] more ambitious soloists and composers,” JazzTimes applauds him as a “daring improviser” and DownBeat celebrates his tone as “melodically captivating” and “rhythmically agile” that makes his music “immediately pleasing.” After three albums, Charles has garnered a welcomed response to his Caribbean roots-informed jazz. Creole Soul, his most accomplished recording so far in his young career, holds great promise to a future of more ebullient and intimate artistry.