Caribbean trumpeter digs deep in 'San Jose Suite'

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Monday January 30, 2017


Caribbean trumpeter digs deep in ‘San Jose Suite’
By: Chloe Herring

The title of Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles’ latest album ‘San Jose Suite’ is a reference to his international studies of San Jose, Costa Rica; San Jose, California and of his island home in a northeastern town formerly known as San Jose.

The three San Joses are the backdrop to a deeply moving document of history and struggle that draws from a diversity of musical experiences and refuses to shy away from tough topics sometimes political in nature.

Charles, 33, is performing in University of Miami’s Festival Miami on Tuesday, Jan. 31. But before delivering a deeply moving performance with his band Creole Soul, he sat down to talk about his musical influences, politics and how they both fit into the world of jazz music.

You are performing on Jan. 31 in the ‘Jazz and Beyond’ Series in Festival Miami. What is it about your music that places it into the ‘beyond’ category?

The first step of it being ‘beyond’ is we play mostly original music ‘” the fact that we fuse different music together, which is essentially at the core of Jazz. At the earliest part of jazz you heard fusion from different styles ‘” whether it was music from the Caribbean or the African diaspora. So I guess we keep pushing that. What we do is not your usual ‘” the tunes that we arrange are not tunes that are familiar. We’ve definitely gone in different directions many times.

That’s the irony of it because people think that fusion styles are a modern thing but that’s been a part of the music since its inception.

What kind of person did you have in mind when you were making ‘San Jose Suite?’ What makes the perfect listener or audience?

I had the people that I studied that were in my mind ‘” my research subjects.

In Costa Rica I had the Boruca people. (Like one of the songs on his album). So each song is about the people I studied. Also in Costa Rica were the Caribbean people who went to Costa Rica in the late 19th Century. ‘” They are fascinating people; they are one of eight indigenous people left. They are one of the last people who make their own textiles and they have this fascinating ritual, Juego De Los Diablitos, that they do every year and they get in these beautiful masks.

In Trininad, the indigenous people. I was definitely learning. It was eye-opening any time you learn about your own people. It was enlightening but it was also humbling. You learn about the good stuff but you also learn about the bad things. It’s both.

Any audience that comes to have a good time and is able to disconnect from what they had going on before and are able to do what the music tells them to do, that’s my idea of a perfect audience. People who submit themselves to the music. That’s the best way for me to put it.

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