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Etienne Charles and Creole Soul at SubCulture

DanMichael Reyes By

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Etienne Charles and Creole Soul
SubCulture
New York, NY
November 8, 2013

Fresh from his three-week residency at Doha's Jazz At Lincoln Center, Etienne Charles along with his band, Creole Soul, took to NYC's SubCulture on a chilly autumn evening. Charles and the band played to a packed audience at the beautiful NoHo venue and to special guests including Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein and songwriter William Salter—best known for penning the Grover Washington Jr. classic, "Mr. Magic."

Charles was joined by alto-saxophonist Brian Hogans, guitarist Alex Wintz, pianist Victor Gould, percussionist D'Achee, drummer John Davis, and newcomer, British bassist, Michael Olatuja. Despite Olatuja's first time working with Etienne Charles, he was still able to give the band the Caribbean bounce that is so closely associated with the trumpeter's music.

The band kicked off the evening with "Douens," a lighthearted romp that can be found on his second album, Folklore (Self Produced, 2009). "Douens" was then followed by Mr. Charles' arrangement of the Dawn Penn classic, "You Don't Love Me," and by another original entitled "Roots"—both of which can be heard his latest release Creole Soul (Culture Shock, 2013). The latter featured a blistering solo from Alex Wintz and some percussion from the trumpeter.

The biggest surprise of the night—in the most pleasant of ways—came when Charles announced that he was going to play a French song written by Joseph Kosma that later was translated to English and became a widely popular standard in the States called, "Autumn Leaves." Not that there's anything wrong with the song itself, it's a perfectly fine standard, it is just rare to hear the song performed outside for academic settings. An even more delightful shock came when the Olatuja started the song by playing the same bass line that Sam Jones walked on Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's seminal 1958 Blue Note recording Something Else. While paying tribute to masters has always been a hallmark of jazz, extending and having your say about the tradition is equally important. Etienne Charles showed his maturity and understanding of respecting tradition while moving it forward by staying true to Cannonball's arrangement while adding a few elements to it. The added color of D'Achee's cool percussion playing, the second A section that featured some re- harmonized chords and hits, and the cued B section was enough to make the Charles' re- arrangement of a popular arrangement to "Autumn Leaves" unique.

After the sweet rendition of "Autumn Leaves," the band went on to a medley of two Bob Marley classics, "Turn Your Lights Down Low" and "Waiting in Vain." The former featured soulful bluesy solos from Hogans, Gould, and Olatuja while the latter featured Charles and Wintz trading fours and quoting phrases from Junior Marvin's guitar solo on the original recording.

The night ended with another original written by Charles from Folklore called "Santimanite," which had jazz's chantwell playing call and response from his adoring audience. Towards the end of the song, almost out of nowhere and seemingly impromptu, guitarist Alex Wintz played the beginning phrase to Creole Soul's opening track "Creole." The energetic kongo groove had the crowd pumped and left them wanting an encore to which the band obliged and played their version of Lord Kitchener's "Sugar Bum Bum" to close off the night.

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