Fridays Live: Etienne Charles
Fridays Live • SFJAZZ At Home

Etienne Charles: Creole Christmas

originally filmed on DEC 9, 2023

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Etienne Charles

Tonight on Fridays Live, SFJAZZ a visionary bandleader, composer and multi-instrumentalist, Etienne Charles. “One of jazz’s more ambitious soloists and composers” (NY Times), the former SFJAZZ Collective trumpeter meshes a profound knowledge of the jazz tradition with the Creole influence of his Trinidad upbringing, performing holiday classics from his 2015 album Creole Christmas.

“Charles delivers his ebullient improvisations with the elegance of a world-class ballet dancer.

The former SFJAZZ Collective trumpeter who meshes a profound knowledge of the jazz tradition with the bone-deep Creole influence of his Trinidad upbringing, Etienne Charles brings his tropical approach to holiday classics — the music documented on his joyous 2015 Culture Shock Music release Creole Christmas, along with new arrangements.

A visionary bandleader, composer and multi-instrumentalist, Charles has developed a strikingly original body of tunes combining traditional rhythms and themes from Trinidad and Haiti with a post-bop harmonic lexicon. Scion of an illustrious musical clan, Charles is the fourth generation of his family to advance Caribbean music. A professor of jazz studies at Michigan State University and 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, he has staked his own claim as an innovator with a series of critically acclaimed albums, from his 2006 debut Culture Shock to 2019’s Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 — an epic project devoted to the Carnival tradition of Trinidad.

With Creole Christmas, Charles has crafted a program of vividly reimagined holiday songs from the Caribbean, American and European traditions like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” all imbued with a decidedly funky edge and brought to life for this performance by the trumpeter’s superb septet.

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