CD review: Folklore. Etienne Charles. EC Records, 2009.
Folkore, the latest release from Trinidadian trumpeter/percussionist/composer, 26-year-old, Etienne Charles, is a wonderful, colorful, vibrant recording filled with Caribbean flavor, Latin grooves and solid jazz arrangements and solos. His trumpet sound is extremely unique because it is his and his alone. It doesn’t quite compare to anyone the jazz world has heard in the past. He doesn’t sound like Wynton, Hargrove, Miles or, his fellow West Indian native, the Jamaican-born trumpet sensation of the 1950s and 60s, Dizzy Reece, who is probably one the most famous jazz musicians from the Caribbean.
Charles tends to favor a mostly bright optimistic sound. The strongest selection, “Duoens,” an upbeat kaiso (calypso), establishes an infectious trumpet chorus throughout the tune that sticks with the listener for a long time. It flows along with a beat that seems to last forever, with outstanding percussion work from all-stars like the master Ralph McDonald (also a Trinidadian native), D’Achee, Ray Charles and drummer Obed Calvaire. “Duoens” is based on Caribbean folklore about child-like ghostly demons who roam the earth, and has all the elements of a classic, with a catchy melody and a highly-enjoyable beat. It was written and arranged by Charles, as well as, the other tunes, on the album, to document his musical interpretation of the tales he heard as a child growing in Trinidad, a melting pot of people in the southern most island in the Caribbean Sea.
“Folklore,” the title cut, features a fine, fluid solo from Gaudeloupean saxophonist Jacques Schwatz Best, whose wails and growls on the tenor saxophone sound like a master in the making. Who is this young hip saxophonist? No doubt he will be heard more in the future. His sound is hearty and has a Hawkins/Trane /Pharoah/Ayler-like quality to it. He also does a superb job on the ballad “Mysterieuse,” which he performs on a dreamy, soft soprano saxophone, reminiscent of Wayne Shorter. Charles’ full-bodied voicings on the trumpet, the excellent piano playing of Milan Milanovic, and the perfect bass line provided by bassist Lupues Curtis, make “Mysterieuse” a joy to listen to, and is no mystery at all, it’s just good, staring-out-the-window-on –a-rainy day music. “Mama Malade,” another blissful ballad, is a lush, soothing Charles original, featuring him on the flugelhorn. It is a waltzy gem that features a light, bouncy, island beat.
Folkore is an epic and historic recording because it captures the essence of what happened years ago in Caribbean culture and presents it in a musical form that reflects present-day life in the Caribbean and the world, for that matter, because all cultures are basically the same. The music on this album is a universal sound. The only possibe exception, “Santimanite,” showcases steel drum soloist and island hero, legendary Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. This is Etienne Charles’ noble effort to pay proper homage to his ancestors and to the tales they told to make this a better world. It is a clear-cut case of passing it on and will be remembered as a sign of great accomplishments to come from a gifted, very perceptive, young musician named Etienne Charles.
Larry Reni Thomas
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