Etienne Charles is assistant professor of jazz trumpet at the Michigan State University College of Music. Born on the island of Trinidad in 1983, Charles defies easy musical categorization. His musical lineage runs at least four generations deep: his great-grandfather, Clement Monlouis, emigrated to Trinidad from the overseas French Department of Martinique bringing his folk music to the village of Mayaro; the young trumpeter's grandfather, Ralph Charles' distinct cuatro style can be heard on the classic folk and calypso recordings of the Growling Tiger; and, his father, Francis, was a member of Phase II Pan Groove, one of Trinidad's most progressive steel bands and one that Etienne Charles would later join.
Immersed in his father's vast record collection, and suffused with the sounds of calypso, steel pan, and African Shango drumming, Charles imbibed many of the influences that presently constitute the diverse colors of his harmonic palette. An alumnus of the Juilliard School, Florida State University, and the Henry Mancini Institute, Charles has received critical acclaim for his exciting performances, thrilling compositions, and his knack for connecting with audiences worldwide.
He recently released his second album, Folklore, an enticing album of original music. The music employs jazz improvisation and harmony with folk rhythms and chants inspired by the African experience of Trinidad and Tobago. His debut album, Culture Shock, was released in 2006.
Charles has performed and recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander, Marcus Roberts, Roberta Flack, Count Basie Orchestra, Ralph MacDonald, Frank Foster, Gerald Wilson, Marie Schneider, Johnny Mandel, and Benny Golson, among many others. In 2006, he won the National Trumpet Competition, jazz division, in Fairfax, Virginia.