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Etienne Charles is coming to town Saturday!

Thursday, May 17, 2018
Michigan State University music professor and world acclaimed musician Etienne Charles. PICTURE COURTESY RAY FUNK

A very busy Etienne Charles is headed to Trinidad for a concert this coming Saturday at one of his favourite haunts, Phase II Pan Groove pan amphitheatre. The school year is over at Michigan State and he is excited as always to return home and will be working on various projects with the start of a busy summer of travel (“That’s what I do!”) and an ever-growing number of projects.

He will be appearing at Phase II Panyard on Saturday, May 19 (7 pm to 1 am) for the Pan Brass Soca Jam Down with Etienne and Friends the hot band of locals that he burned up the streets with his Monday afternoon Carnival band. He is already committed to next year’s Carnival band, making it bigger and better and has other projects in the works but doesn’t want to talk about them yet until he has things locked down.

Looking back on the school year, he is amazed that he just completed his ninth year teaching in the Jazz programme at Michigan State University where he is an associate professor. He has trumpet students, leads the jazz orchestra, teaches jazz arranging, and regularly performs with a faculty group just called the Professors of Jazz. He wrote several pieces for their double CD, Better Than Alright. One of the strengths of the Jazz programme at MSU is their Jazz Artists in residence and Etienne has been honoured to work with great artists this school year like bassist Ron Carter, saxophonist Steve Wilson. “It was a great year. I was very busy. Three trumpet students graduating, working with lots of guest artistes.”

Besides teaching, Charles is busy performing regularly doing the school year writing and working on numerous projects. Earlier this spring he shared in an NAACP Image award for the outstanding jazz album of the year for Somi’s Petite Afrique album. After working on a horn arrangement on her first album, this time he co-produced, co-composed, arranged and performed on both trumpet and percussion on several songs. For this Guggenheim recipient, the honours just keep coming.

After his stay in Trinidad, he will be off to London in a few weeks for a concert at the Tabernacle on June 3. This will include the premiere of a new suite of music for a multi-media work on the Windrush celebrating the 70th anniversary of the MV Empire Windrush that came over from Jamaica to UK with Lord Beginner and Lord Kitchener on the boat and considering the effort of colonials from their defence of Britain in World War Two to the shocking treatment that have recently come to light of Caribbean immigrants who came decades ago and are now facing deportation.

Later in the summer, besides his concert schedule as well as teaching with the Carnegie Hall program for the National Youth Orchestra’s summer jazz programme for secondary school children. At the end of the summer, he will be featured in a residence at one of New York City’s premiere jazz club, Jazz Standard on August 23 to 26, with two nights of a small group and two nights of a big band. Then he is taking his Carnival suite for its North American premiere in Toronto on November 16.

If that wasn’t enough, just a few weeks ago, Etienne Charles got the call to join one of the most prestigious groups in the jazz world, the SFJazz Collective a legendary super group of eight jazz musicians who tour and record with each year having a focus on the music of a particular jazz composer and adding commissioned works by the members. The focus composer for this season is the great Brazilian composer Tom Jobim. They then tour the world—in this case, they have a European tour in October and November 2018 and will participate in the famous Jazz Cruise from January 19 to 26, 2019 through the Caribbean.

It is all very new so Etienne is still just trying to wrap his head around this new project and what it will entail but it is very excited and honoured. “It was pretty crazy to get called up to be in that group. It was mind blowing because two of the biggest influences on my composing when I was growing up were David Sanchez and Miguel Zenon who are both members of that group.” He noted the strong Caribbean presence for the group with its current lineup with “David and Miguel from Puerto Rico, Edward Simon from Venezuela, Obed Calvaire from Haiti and me from Trinidad.”

For Trinidadians, this Saturday is best chance to celebrate the ongoing success of Trinidad’s great as part of a hot evening with Boogsie Sharpe, Phase II and 3Canal as Etienne Charles keeps becoming an ever better known international jazz star.


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