Etienne Charles

Etienne Charles

 East Lansing, Michigan, USA

The exploration of Afro-Caribbean grooves through improvisation and song.

New Album Creole Soul
"excellent new album" New York Times

3 consecutive weeks at #1 on radio chart
(10 weeks in top 5).


recording artist, composer, arranger, producer, Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies, Michigan State University

The New York Times calls trumpeter/bandleader Etienne 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 impressive and well-received albums for his own Culture Shock Music imprint, Charles has garnered a welcomed response to his Caribbean roots-informed jazz. His latest album, Creole Soul—his most accomplished recording so far in his young career—holds great promise to a future of more ebullient and intimate artistry.

Throughout its hundred-plus-year history, jazz has been organically enlarged, expanded and revitalized by cultivating new influences into the tradition, from the Afro-Cuban movement of the ’40s to today’s artists embracing their ethnic heritage. In this vein, Charles has proven to be one of the most compelling and exciting young jazz artists ushering the genre into groundbreaking new territory.

Still in his 20s, Charles releases Creole Soul, a captivating journey of new jazz expression. It buoyantly taps into a myriad of styles rooted in his Afro-Caribbean background and plumbs the musical depths of the islands, from calypso to Haitian voodoo music. Also in the jazz amalgam mix are rock steady, reggae, belair, kongo and rock as well as the influence of Motown and R&B music Charles listened to on his parents’ record player when he was growing up.

“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. That’s what this album is all about: focusing on soul music that is Creole at heart.”

While the 10-song Creole Soul is steeped in the jazz tradition, the spirit of the Caribbean also drives it. The young trumpeter, in addition to composing six originals, delivers his unique spin on Creole-oriented tunes from past masters, ranging from Bob Marley to Thelonious Monk. The album—at turns, rootsy, spicy and grooving—features at its core Charles’ crisp trumpet intonation and his lucid melodic lines. Joining the leader for the Creole music adventure is Charles’ band, comprising tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart, alto saxophonist Brian Hogans, Kris Bowers on piano and Fender Rhodes, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Obed Calvaire. Guests include vocalist Erol Josué, guitarist Alex Wintz and percussionist/vocalists Daniel Sadownick and D’Achee.

Creole Soul opens with the tune “Creole,” a fast-paced romp fueled by the kongo groove from northern Haiti, with a bridge that moves from a minor key to a major and playfully closes with the spirited “Doin’ the Thing,” of which he says, “My rule is that I end with a jam that’ll be straight up calypso. I don’t want to get away from that. I’m proud and connected.”

In between, Charles

This tune was inspired by a trip to Haiti,” Charles says. “It’s about a struggle that turns into empowerment. When we return to the groove after the middle part of the tune, it’s the release from the struggle.”

Jayz Life and Times

New York Times

Philadelphia Inquirer

September 30 - October 20 | Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha, Qatar
November 8 | Subculture, NYC
November 9 | Exit0 International Jazz Festival, Cape May, NJ
November 16 | Cliff Bells, Detroit, MI
November 30 | TedX Port of Spain, Trinidad
November 30 | Little Carib Theatre, Trinidad
December 1 | Little Carib Theatre, Trinidad
December 6 | Fairchild Theatre, E. Lansing, MI
December 14 | Wharton Center, E. Lansing, MI

January 10-11 | Winter Jazz Fest, NYC
January 19 | Wharton Center, E. Lansing, MI
January 26-Feb 1 | Trinidad with MSU Jazz Orchestra
February 22 | Cook Recital Hall, E. Lansing, MI
March 1 | Panorama Finals Coverage for
March 25-28 | Savannah Music Festival, Savannah, GA
April 4 & 5 | Oakland University, Rochester, MI
April 10-12 | MSU Jazz Spectacular, E. Lansing, MI
May 24 | KC Jazz Club, Washington, DC with Rene Marie
Ma 26 | Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC with Rene Marie
June 13 |


Creole Soul (2013)
Kaiso (2011)
Folklore (2009)
Culture Shock (2006)

Set List

You Don't Love Me
Turn Your LIghts Down Low
The Folks
60-90 mins