roots DANCE: Etienne Charles’s sister, Abby, celebrated her family roots in dance. —Photos: GARY CARDINEZ

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Love for ‘Creole Soul’

By Gary Cardinez

A sold out crowd packed The Little Carib Theatre on White Street, Woodbrook, last Saturday night to enjoy local trumpeter Etienne Charles and Friends in a show entitled “Creole Soul”.

Charles presented two 45-minute sessions which blazed a musical trail and provided a great experience for his audience.

The Assistant Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Michigan State University started off with “Douens” a piece from his 2009 CD Folklore and immediately put a smile on the face of every person in the theatre. 

He continued with Dawn Penn’s “You Don’t Love Me” (No No No), opening with a bass intro played on the upright Bass by Burniss Travis II. 

This time members of the audience were singing.

Thelonious Monk’s “Green Chimneys” was next and featured Victor Gould on piano. 

Both Charles and saxophonist Charles Schwarz-Bart provided the Christmas feeling with this one as pieces of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Jingle Bells” were infused with Monk’s artistry of the “Green Chimneys”. 

Almost everyone in the audience gave off a collective “Ooh’ as guitarist Alex Wintz plucked the strings to the timeless “Les Feuilles Mortes—Autumn Leaves”. 

This piece was played with precision, each musician giving it the attention it deserved.

Just when you felt like it could not get any better, the young composer/arranger gave the audience a piece of personal history about his great grandfather leaving French Martinique to come to Trinidad and Tobago. 

It was his journey to find his great grandfather in Mayaro which brought forth his next selection “Roots”. 

This piece featured Charles in all his glory, a colourful texture of music showing the range of trumpet. 

It also featured D’Archee on percussions and John Davis on drums. 

Charles even put down his trumpet and accompanied D’Archee on drums while the rest of the band kept plugging at the root of the music. 

This performance also produced a special guest in Charles’s sister, Abby, who danced to the music portraying their family roots. It also got the audience involved in a call-and-response session with the musicians on stage.

Charles also told the audience he had come 360 degrees with this debut at the Little Carib Theatre. He remembered so long ago coming to the Little Carib to pick up his sister who was rehearsing with the Caribbean School of Dance. 

“I saw a gentleman walking a lady to her car and I later found out they were two icons of Trinidad and Tobago, Beryl McBernie and Aubrey Adams. This is my first time at the Little Carib and I can feel the history of the place,” he said.  

After the magic of “Roots” the only thing left was to get some refreshments.

The show resumed with “Folks” then “One Snap Finger” with every member of the band getting their space to ramajay.

Listening to Charles is sometimes nostalgic, as he uses music from Trinidad and Tobago’s calypso greats like Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow and Roaring Lion. He infuses calypso into his Afro Caribbean jazz style that is fresh and appealing.

This was exactly the case with Sparrow’s “Memories”; Charles’s arrangement of this piece was full of emotion. Again the introduction was done with the bass solo and the notes pulled at your heartstrings.

Charles continued in that vein with Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” before the grand finale “Santimantay” another piece which had the audience on a high as the musicians revealed the nature of music from this island, blended and mixed in a world of jazz by one of the greatest young musical minds to come from this twin island republic.

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