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Etienne Charles: Kaiso

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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With Kaiso, trumpeter Etienne Charles revisits his robust Trinidad-Tobago roots, brilliantly exposing their beauty, mystery and fascinating flavors. The fruits of Charles and crew's labor blossom from multiple Caribbean grooves into a highly energized performance, with more jazz-tinged interpretations than his prior outing, the highly acclaimed Folklore (Self-Produced, 2009).

The title tune, from an African word loosely defined as "proceed" (as in "play on"), is dark and hard. With the frontline boiling hot over a pulsing harmonic and rhythmic base, it announces, musically, that this effort will stray in a different, more complex musical direction. "J'overt Barrio" embraces a Latin feel as it weaves across genres and tempos; a New Orleans-style musical gumbo, consisting of Creole, African, and Caribbean musical flavors spiced with whistles and chants.

Charles' tone is sweetly robust and a supreme joy throughout. His marvelous playing—intentionally childlike and playful—showcases his masterful abilities. His classical training and the influence of Miles Davis ("Congo Bara") and Wynton Marsalis are pleasantly obvious. Guadeloupean tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart adds a fine touch.

Calypso master, Mighty Sparrow's "Russian Satellite" prances over a cool melody line before forging straight ahead. Alto saxophonist Brian Hogans generates boppish ideas and faux quotes that fire and pop, while the fine rhythm section lays a terrific, swinging foundation here and elsewhere.

Charles shows he can stretch out with the best on Mighty Sparrow's "Ten to One is Murder." Giving props to Marsalis and the bebop classic, "Salt Peanuts," Charles and Hogans fly on this burner, with guest pianist Monty Alexander and bassist Ben Williams both delivering heated solos. "Kitch's Bebop of Calypso" channels Charlie Parker, as Lord Superior's vocal and Hagans' solo confirm. Lord Superior's voice and Charles' cup-muted trumpet smile on the catchy calypso, "My Landlady," while bassist Ben Williams, drummer Obed Calvaire and percussionist Ralph MacDonald push without letting up.

The lush orchestral prelude on Sparrow's "Teresa" sets up a luscious bossa nova melody, played with heart by Charles, while "Rose" showcases the orchestra's woodwinds flitting around Charles' calypso-dancing horn; two selections that are more accessible and, consequently, distinctive from the rest of the session. Charles' duo with Alexander on Lord Kitchner's "Margie," rounds out a trio of romantic beauties, and "Sugar Bum Bum," a jaunty calypso tip-of-the-hat to the Caribbean woman, perfectly seals this exotic date.

Kaiso is an enticing recording by an extraordinary musician who is looking back historically and into his musical future. Whether calypso, straight-ahead, bebop or the mixture of all, Etienne Charles and his team show they have enough talent to cook up some truly spicy and wonderfully entertaining music. As they say in the Caribbean, "kaiso."

Track Listing: Kaiso; J'ouvert Barrio; Russian Satellite; Congo Bara; Ten To One Is Murder; Teresa; Kitch's Bebop Of Calypso; Rose; My Landlady; Margie; Sugar Bum Bum.

Personnel: Etienne Charles: trumpet, flugelhorn, cuatro, percussion, vocals; Brian Hogans: alto saxophone, piano (6), vocals; Jacques Schwartz-Bart: tenor saxophone, vocals; Sullivan Fortner: piano, vocals; Ben Williams: bass, vocals; Obed Calvaire: drums, vocals; 3 Canal: vocals (2); Monty Alexander: piano (5, 7, 9, 10); Ralph MacDonald: percussion (6-8, 11); Lord Superior: vocals (7, 9), guitar (7, 9).

Title: Kaiso | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Culture Shock Music

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