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Etienne Charles - KAISO

KAISO is the third recording as a leader for talented trumpeter Etienne Charles, following his two well-received projects, Culture Shock, and Folklore. It continues a theme that he has embraced from the outset of his recording career: an immersion in, and a respect for the music, and by extension, the culture, of his native Trinidad: the sound of calypso.

Whereas his first two recordings consisted, for the most part, of original compositions inspired by the music he grew up with, this time the inspiration is of a different sort: specific, classic calypso songs by some of the music’s most renowned and popular performers. Three of them, Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, and Roaring Lion, have particular significance to Etienne. “Kitch, Sparrow and Lion were the first Calypsonians whose songs I began learning and studying at an early age. Each of these masters has their own catchy trait. Kitch for his melodies and his bouncy phrases; Sparrow for his voice and portrayal of his characters in his songs, and Lion for his wit and his way of turning lyrics, and fusing African, French creole, Venezuelan, and European sounds into his calypsos.”

The term “kaiso” originated in Nigeria, and literally means “go on” or “continue.” In the current, popular usage of the word in the Caribbean, audiences use it to exhort the musicians; to encourage them, to “play on!” “Kaiso” is the verbal response to the energy that comes from being inspired by something you see or hear: a performance, a sound, a dance, a lyric, a cry. It’s found in many different cultures of the African diaspora, and as such, connects us.” It’s an important point to remember, because while calypso is the inspiration and essential component on Kaiso, the engine that drives the recording is its jazz sensibility, and the combination of the two fit like hand in glove. As a seasoned jazz musician who has performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander (a guest on the recording), Marcus Roberts, and The Count Basie Orchestra, the concept of this CD is perfectly natural for Charles.

The range of emotion reflected in his statement about his impression of “kaiso” is heard throughout, as the rich melodies of the ensemble performances are interpreted by Charles and his sterling bandmates with a vigor and improvisational verve that brings the cultural power of these selections to life. Songs like “J’Ouvert Barrio” (Roaring Lion), “Russian Satellite”(Mighty Sparrow), “Sugar Bum Bum” (Lord Kitchener), and especially “Kitch’s Bebop Of Calypso”, with its theme of the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis (Lord Kitchener) underscore the natural, easy relationship between the music, harmonies and rhythms of Calypso and jazz.

Born in Trinidad in 1983, Charles comes from a rich legacy of folk musical tradition that goes back four generations. By the time he was sixteen, Charles was attending the summer performance program at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Three years later, and after receiving a scholarship, he went on to attend Florida State University where he graduated as the Brautlecht Scholar of the College of Music. The next step in his musical education was in New York City where he earned a Master’s Degree and was awarded the William Schuman Prize from The Juilliard School while touring extensively with the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra and freelancing around New York gaining valuable experience. Charles is now an Assistant Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Michigan State University. Each step along this journey has provided him with an extraordinary chance to cultivate the ideas that have begun to bare wonderful musical fruit with his initial recordings as a leader, especially with Kaiso.

The trumpet sound of Charles is superbly suited to his artistic vision on Kaiso. On the ensemble selections, it’s vibrant, powerful, and soaring; at other times it’s soulful, tender, even plaintive (as on the songs, “Teresa”(Mighty Sparrow), and “Margie” (Lord Kitchener). It allows him to, from his unique perspective, communicate his personal message about Trinidadian culture and calypso music. “The songs chosen for this album explore all the different traits of a true Calypsonian,” Etienne says. “One who is witty in his description of events to paint a picture in the minds of the audience, as on ‘Russian Satellite.’ ‘Ten To One Is Murder’ reflects on the ‘Bad John’ side of Calypsonians; ‘Rose’ shows the reaction to heartbreak, or as we say in Trinidad, ‘Tabanca’. ‘Sugar Bum Bum’ is the celebration of a woman’s beauty; ‘J’Ouvert Barrio’ brings the carnival element to the record. ‘My Landlady’ describes the hardships of living abroad; and ‘Kitch’s Bebop Of Calypso’ shows the influence of foreign sounds on calypso. I tried to get through many types of calypsos to show the depth of this music.”

The core musicians on Kaiso are a superb collection of some of best and brightest young musicians on the jazz scene, all of whom are perfectly at home in helping Etienne achieve his musical objectives. Alto saxophonist Brian Hogans (Sean Jones), tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart, pianist Sullivan Fortner, Jr., bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Obed Calvaire (Clayton Brothers, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Sean Jones), are all intricately involved in the telling of Charles’ stories; they are an essential element in the success of Kaiso. Along with vocalist 3 Canal, all of the musicians participate vocally throughout the recording.

The special guests on Kaiso also bring a special vitality, charm and artistry to the proceedings. One highlight is the appearance of Jamaican born pianist Monty Alexander (on four selections); he and Charles perform a beautiful duet rendition of Lord Kitchener’s ‘Margie.’ Another is the appearance of Calypso legend, vocalist and guitarist Lord Superior; he lends his lead vocal talents to both ‘Kitch’s Bebop Of Calypso,’ and ‘My Landlady.’ And the three-time GRAMMY® award-winning percussionist Ralph MacDonald also is on hand, adding his own special rhythmic ingredients to this special cultural recipe. The son of the popular Trinidadian performer MacBeth The Great, Harlem-born MacDonald was a member of Harry Belafonte’s band in the 1960’s, and was an important and integral part the Calypso revolution in New York City (MacDonald’s contributions to the American music scene, in a variety of genres, has had just as much of an impact; he is a three-time GRAMMY® award-winner, writing such classic, popular compositions as “Where Is The Love,” and “Just The Two Of Us,” in addition to the Calypso hit, “Calypso Breakdown” and “Jam on the Groove”).

With Kaiso, Etienne Charles has taken a slice of his life and shaped it in a way that provides the listener with the opportunity to experience his rich musical heritage. Viewed through the prism of a musician from the Caribbean who has taken his varied experiences, honed his remarkable gifts, and forged a unique way of expressing his music as a jazz musician, it’s easy to see why, he has received so many accolades, with many more to come. “My cultural history makes up a big part of who I am”, he says. “And as a result, it comes out in the music.”


June 24 | Essaouira Gnaoua Festival w/Jacques Schwarz-Bart – Morocco
June 29 | Harlem Stage Gatehouse w/Ben Williams & Sound Effect – New York, NY
July 3 | Cooperstown Summer Music Festival
w/ National Jazz Museum in Harlem All-Stars – Cooperstown, NY
July 21 | Black Sea Jazz Festival w/Beka Gochiashvili – Batumi, Georgia
*August 1 | Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola – Kaiso CD Release Performance – New York, NY*
September 30 | Creole Gallery w/ Professors of Jazz – Lansing, MI
October 7 | Harris Theater w/Chicago Jazz Ensemble (conducting) – Chicago, IL
November 19 | 92Y Tribeca w/Kaiso – New York, NYC
April 4, 2012 | Campbell Recital Hall – Stanford University, CA

Etienne Charles · Kaiso
Culture Shock Music · Release Date: July 12, 2011

For more information, visit etiennecharles.com

..:: SOURCE: DL MEDIA ::..