February 20, 2020

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Sextet gets its groove on

Etienne Charles brings hot blues

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/9/2014 (1978 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IF there is a groove to be found, trumpeter and percussionist Etienne Charles will fall into it and you'll have a hard time pulling him back out.

From the American Songbook to blues to calypso to reggae, Charles and his tight band settled into the pocket Sunday afternoon in the middle of three weekend concerts to open the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances' new series.

The concert opener, Douens (from his 2009 Folklore recording), set the tone for the show and showcased Charles and his band mates in a composition based on a Caribbean tale of children whose feet go backwards.

The slow-cooking front line of trumpeter Charles and alto saxophonist Brian Hogans opened the tune before Charles switched to percussion while Hogans delivered a soulful solo.

The tune also gave guitarist Alex Wintz and pianist Corey Kendrick (a graduate student at Michigan State University where Charles teaches) a chance to shine early in the set.

Trinidad-born Charles switched things up with You Don't Love Me (No No No), a Caribbean take on an old Bo Diddley blues tune featuring Charles on muted trumpet and another hot alto solo by Hogans.

A trumpet-piano duet on the Gershwin standard Embraceable You was a musical treat. It was a beautiful rendition, with breathy trumpet playing and some sensitive accompaniment by Kendrick, who plays beyond his years.

Creole, from Charles's most recent album, Creole Soul, was a sizzling number, perhaps the crowd-pleaser of the afternoon. It opened with infectious rhythms from guitarist Wintz and bassist Michael Olatuja, who switched to electric bass for this funky outing that rocked the house.

It was a great display of ensemble work, especially by drummer John Davis, who was a delight all through the concert.

The band's mastery of a groove hit its stride with Bob Marley's Turn Your Lights Down Low, which Charles describes as a standard, if not quite like the American Songbook standards to which jazz fans are accustomed.

Charles switched to flugelhorn on The Folks, a tune he composed about his parents' life raising a family and working in Trinidad, and his hot solo and Hogans' alto playing captured the hectic nature of family life.

Charles has an infectious spirit that comes across in his stage patter and playing, and that infuses the band members and audience alike.

He's another younger musician whose tastes and background are broadening the jazz songbook.

chris.smith@freepress.mb.ca

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