Etienne Charles – Creole Soul

Title: Creole Soul

Artist: Etienne Charles

Label: MRI

Formats:  CD, MP3

Release date: July 23, 2013



Creole Soul, the fourth album as a leader from Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles, is a warm and satisfying listen.  Unfailingly lyrical, this is contemporary jazz refracted through the lenses of reggae and calypso.

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Charles displays an agile, buttery trumpet tone, whether trading solos with saxophonists Jacques Schwarz-Bart on tenor and Brian Hodges on alto, or simply stating a beautiful, unadorned melody, as on the covers of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” or Mighty Sparrow’s calypso number “Memories.”  Every track demonstrates the trumpeter’s predilection for memorable melodies, and the soloists, while always technically challenging and rhythmically exciting, never stray too far off the harmonic pathway.  “Green Chimneys” by Thelonious Monk gets reimagined as a punchy calypso, while Dawn Penn’s 1967 rocksteady hit “You Don’t Love Me” goes the other way, receiving a funky, Jazz Messengers-esque hard bop makeover.  The first-class rhythm section—Obed Calvaire on drums, Kris Bowers on electric piano and piano, and Ben Williams on bass (with guitarist Alex Wintz joining on a few tracks)—lays down deep, lush grooves throughout, from the spirited opener “Creole” to the happy closing calypso of “Doin’ The Thing.”  Jazz was once one of the country’s most popular forms of music; with Creole Soul, Etienne Charles has shown that it can still, all at once, move your feet, make your heart thump, and engage your brain.

Reviewed by Terry Simpkins