About Etienne Charles
With a sound rooted in modern jazz, New Orleans, and Afro-Caribbean folk traditions, trumpeter Etienne Charles came to prominence in the 2000s, bringing the sounds of his native Trinidad to the greater post-bop scene. A graduate of Florida State and Juilliard, Charles earned early support playing with artists like Marcus Roberts, Wynton Marsalis, Eric Reed, the Count Basie Orchestra, and others. Along with his vibrant albums like 2009's Folklore and 2013's Creole Soul, Charles also holds the position of assistant professor in Michigan State University's College of Music.
Born on the island of Trinidad in 1983, Charles comes from a long line of musicians dating back four generations. He learned the cuatro from his grandfather, Ralph Charles, a highly regarded stylist on the instrument who can be heard on the Growling Tiger recordings. Etienne's first professional work was in his father Francis' progressive (and globally popular) steel drum ensemble Phase II Pan Groove. Charles found his way to trumpet early and took it up in earnest as a young teen. After high school, he began winning awards at Fatima College in Trinidad. He was the first three-time winner of the Provincial Cup, and the youngest student ever to win it. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida State University -- where he studied with jazz pianist Marcus Roberts -- and was named Brautlecht Scholar of the College of Music. In 2008 he received his Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School of Music and was awarded the William Schuman Prize. Charles also attended the Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles. He gained experience by appearing on stages with a host of notable musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander, Gerald Wilson, Roberta Flack, Frank Foster, the Count Basie Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Johnny Mandel, and Benny Golson.
In 2006, Charles won the National Trumpet Competition, Jazz Division. That same year, his debut album, Culture Shock, appeared, and received positive reviews. Some of its sidemen included Ronny Jordan, Roberts, Vincent Gardner, and Ralph MacDonald. By the time Folklore was released in 2009, Charles had formed his own touring and recording band. In 2011, he began teaching at Michigan State University's College of Music as an assistant professor, and released his third album, Kaiso. He released his fourth album, Creole Soul, in July of 2013 and was awarded the Caribbean Heritage Trailblazer Award by the Institute of Caribbean, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015. He then appeared on albums by Somi, Ben Williams, and René Marie before issuing his own Carnival: The Sound of a People, Vol. 1 in 2019. ~ Thom Jurek
BORNJuly 24, 1983