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Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra Featuring René Marie


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Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra Featuring René Marie
Trinidad-born Etienne Charles has been fortunate in his associates during his development as a jazz musician. One of the first friends he made on arrival in the U.S.A. in the early 2000s to study at Florida State University was faculty member Marcus Roberts. Among much else, the pianist taught Charles the importance of keeping in touch with his roots. "He always said make sure you put where you're from in your music," says Charles in the press materials accompanying his first big-band album, Creole Orchestra. "Marcus would say that going backwards is the only way to go forwards." Charles took the advice and it shines through Creole Orchestra, as it has shone through his previous output.

A later addition to Charles' circle is Rene Marie, who guests on four tracks on the new album. Charles first worked with the singer when she asked him to contribute some arrangements for her album I Wanna Be Evil: With Love To Eartha Kitt (Motema, 2013), including for the declaratory opener, Betty Garrett and Gerald Dolin's "I'd Rather Be Burned As A Witch." Following the album's release, Marie asked Charles to write big band charts to take on the road. It was a "baptism by fire," says Charles, who thought "Okay, now I'm a big band writer."

Marie's tracks are among the many pleasures of Creole Orchestra. She is featured on Lester Judson and Raymond Taylor's "I Wanna Be Evil," Harry "Sweets" Edison and Jon Hendricks' "Centrepiece," and two of her own songs, "Colorado River Song," which resonates with Frank Loesser's "On A Slow Boat China" without ripping it off, and the incredibly sensual "Take My Breath Away," the penultimate track, a slot often filled by tracks too understated to act as openers but which are in every other way an album's highlight.

Not that there are any duds among the other dozen tracks on this smile inducing 78-minute album. It taps in, says Charles, to the Trinidadian big band tradition which was kick started during the Second World War, when American troops stationed on the island had a services radio station whose musical output was primarily Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and their peers, and whose sound was soon to be evoked on Trinidadian calypso recordings. Echoes of that are heard on Charles' opener, "Old School," and "Douens." Another Caribbean reference comes with the ska-influenced arrangement of Monty Alexander's "Think Twice."

On top of all this are striking arrangements of Joe Henderson's "A Shade Of Jade," Edgar Sampson and Chick Webb's "Stompin' At The Savoy" and Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train," the bar walking (if you can get a 22-piece band on a bar counter) closer. Charles' textures and voicings are fresh and inventive throughout, and among the album's soloists of note are Charles, lead trumpeter Jumaane Smith, tenor saxophonist John Ellis, guitarist Alex Wintz, alto saxophonists Brian Hogans and Michael Thomas, trombonists Corey Wilcox and Dion Tucker, and pianist Sullivan Fortner.


Track Listing

Old School;Poison; Think Twice; I Wanna Be Evil; Holy City; Ten to One is Murder; Centerpiece; Douens; A Shade of Jade; Colorado River Song; Stompin' at the Savoy; Take my breath away; Night Train.


Alex Wintz
Ben Williams
bass, electric
Seth Ebersole
Brian Hogans
saxophone, alto
Godwin Louis
Walter Cano
Dion Tucker
Corey Wilcox
Chris Glassman
trombone, bass
John Ellis
saxophone, tenor
Michael Dease
DJ Logic
Rene Marie
Additional Instrumentation

Michael Thomas: saxophone; Paul Nedzela: baritone saxophone; Gina Izzo: flute; Etienne Charles: percussion; Jorge Glem: cuatro; Pascual Landeau: marac; Brandon Rose: vocals.

Album information

Title: Creole Orchestra Featuring René Marie | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Culture Shock Music




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