Trinidad-born trumpeter Etienne Charles’ sixth full-length release, San Jose Suite, via Culture Shock Music. Composed by Charles and commissioned through a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the ambitious ten-part suite explores the histories, cultures and musical traditions of three Western settlements that share a name: San Jose, Costa Rica; San Jose, California; and Charles’ native St. Joseph, Trinidad (known as San Jose during the era of Spanish colonization). In the process, it illuminates shared pasts of colonial conquest in the Americas and the resilience of communities that have developed as a result.
Having begun his research in December of 2014, Charles traveled to each locale in 2015 and spent time with townspeople, local historians and storytellers, observing and participating in rituals and jamming with local musicians in the indigenous and African Diaspora communities. Both populations’ relationship to—and influence on—music proved to be of particular interest. “In each city, there was the presence of conquest, resistance and community,” Charles observes. “And yet, each population’s relationship with conquest made the presence of resistance stronger and created an increased sense of community and culture. Music is a major part of that.”
Performing alongside Charles on San Jose Suite are Brian Hogans (alto saxophone), Alex Wintz (guitar), Victor Gould (piano, Fender Rhodes, organ), Ben Williams (bass) and John Davis (drums). The record also features spoken word contributions by Dr. Harry Edwards, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and founder of the
Olympic Project for Human Rights, who was instrumental in the 1960s resistance at San Jose State University (both as a student and then as a professor) that led to the desegregation of the campus.
Charles will celebrate the release with live performances around the country, including DC Jazz Fest, San Francisco’s SFJAZZ Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York City. Please see below for a list of upcoming dates.
Charles’ previous album, Creole Soul, reached #1 on the JazzWeek Radio Chart for three consecutive weeks, was called “excellent” by The New York Times and was hailed by Jazz Times as “personal, cerebral, spiritual and joyful in its creative exploration of the roots of music and of a man.” DownBeat raved, “Charles’ trumpet playing retains its sublime elegance, especially in the way he unravels his improvisations in a soothing, almost blustery manner.”
A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in the Creative Arts, Associate Professor of Jazz Trumpet and Teacher Scholar at Michigan State University, Charles has been called “a daring improviser” by Jazz Times while Ben Ratliff of The New York Times called him “one of the more ambitious soloists and composers.” Charles studied under piano virtuoso Marcus Roberts at Florida State University and Mark Gould, former principal trumpeter of the Metropolitan Opera, at Juilliard. He was also mentored by Jamaican reggae and jazz luminary Monty Alexander and the late, multiple Grammy Award-winning, Trinidadian-American percussionist/songwriter Ralph MacDonald.