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Etienne Charles: Folklore

Larry Reni Thomas By
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Etienne Charles: Folklore Trumpeter Etienne Charles' Folklore is a wonderful, colorful, vibrant recording filled with Caribbean flavor, Latin grooves and solid jazz arrangements and solos. A percussionist and composer as well, the 26-year-old Charles has an extremely unique trumpet sound that is his and his alone. He doesn't sound like Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, or Miles Davis, nor does he sound like fellow West Indian native, the Jamaican-born Dizzy Reece (a trumpet sensation of the 1950s and 1960s and one the Caribbean's most famous jazz musicians).

Charles tends to favor a mostly bright and optimistic sound. Folklore's strongest selection, "Douens," an upbeat kaiso (calypso), establishes an infectious and memorable trumpet chorus and flows along with a beat that seems to last forever, featuring outstanding percussion work from all-stars like the Trinidadian master Ralph MacDonald, D'Achee, Ray Charles and drummer Los Dorados. Based on Caribbean folklore about childlike ghostly demons that roam the earth, the tune has all the elements of a classic. Charles wrote and arranged the tune, as he did with the rest of Folklore, to musically interpret the tales he heard as a child growing up in the cultural melting pot of Trinidad.

The title cut features a fine, fluid solo from Guadeloupean saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart, whose wails and growls on the tenor saxophone sound like a master in the making. No doubt this young hip saxophonist will be heard more in the future, with a hearty sound that possesses a Coleman Hawkins-like or John Coltrane-like quality to it. Switching to soprano, Schwarz-Bart also does a superb job on the ballad "Mysterieuse," with a dreamy, soft approach reminiscent of Wayne Shorter.

Charles' full-bodied trumpet voicings, Milan Milanovic's excellent piano playing and Luques Curtis's perfect bass line also make "Mysterieuse" a joy to hear. It's no mystery at all; it's just good, staring-out-the-window-on-a-rainy-day music. "Mama Malade," another blissful ballad, is a lush, soothing gem with a light, bouncy island beat that features Charles on flugelhorn.

Folklore is an historic recording, capturing the essence of past events in Caribbean culture and presenting it in a musical form that reflects present-day life there and in the world. The music has a universal sound, with the exception of "Santimanite," which showcases steel drum soloist and island legend Len "Boogsie" Sharpe. Folklore is Charles' noble effort to pay proper homage to his ancestors and the tales they told. It's a clear-cut case of passing it on, and will be remembered as a sign of great accomplishments to come from such a young, gifted, and very perceptive musician.


Track Listing: Folklore; Douens; Dance with la Diablesse; Laja who?; Mama Malade; Soucouyant; Mysterieuse; Mama d'lo; Santamanite; Papa Bois, Folklore (story).

Personnel: Etienne Charles: trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion, vocals, double seconds, cuatro; Jacques Schwarz-Bart: tenor and soprano saxophones; Milan Milanovic: piano; Luques Curtis": bass; Obed Calvaire: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; Len "Boogsie" Sharpe: tenor pan; D'Achee: percussion; Ray Charles: percussion; Keith "Designer" Prescott: vocals; Wendell Manwarren: vocals; Roger Roberts: vocals.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Latin/World


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