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ICON Suggests: Etienne Charles, CREOLE SOUL

Creole Soul flaunts a polished groove, heavy on the beats and the bass, that dares you to try to sit still. Trinidad-born trumpeter Etienne Charles is the man behind the sound, a uniquely fired up combination of calypso and modern jazz that reflects his musical upbringing.


For this fourth solo effort on his own label, Charles assembles a dynamic core of peers and smoothly exploits the natural soul on choice covers (reggae singer Dawn Penn’s “You Don’t Love Me” and the Mingus-inspired original “Roots,” a gutsy floor shaker. Pianist/keyboardist Kris Bowers, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Obed Calvaire ground the extraordinary rhythm team to which Charles adds tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart and alto player Brian Hogan, along with the hyper-hot guitar of Alex Wintz and a crew of vocalists.

Creole Soul flaunts a polished groove, heavy on the beats and the bass, that dares you to try to sit still.

From the start, Charles’ fusion of spirited Afro-Caribbean rhythms reaches critical mass on the splashy “Creole,” which hitches an infectious groove to a swaggering horn arrangement, while tunes by Monk (“Green Chimneys”) and Bob Marley (“Turn Your Lights Down Low”) are freshened with skillful tempo shifts and a touch of New Orleans funk.

Charles is a lyrical trumpeter, with a keen style and sweet, rounded tone. At 30 years old, he mixes the potent with the poetic on Creole Soul with a confidence more like Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove, two musicians that exert an influence on Charles’ style. Listening to his seven originals, especially the stout, straight-ahead “Midnight” and buoyant “Doin’ The Thing,” you know you’re hearing a major new voice on the scene who has made one of the best records of the year. (10 tracks; 54 minutes)

This article is from the August 2013 edition of ICON Magazine, the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. More Information.