Acclaimed jazz musician Etienne Charles celebrated his 38th birthday last Saturday with a concert at the Aspen Art Museum’s jascafé, Aspen, Colorado, under the auspices of Jazz Aspen Snowmass Company (JAS).
The show was streamed live on Facebook, starting with welcome remarks by president and CEO of JAS, Jim Horowitz, who said the birthday concert was the first live event for the year.
“The concert we had in June had 90 per cent vaccinated of the 100 guests, and we catered for 80 per cent, and this evening we have 150 guests, so we are grateful,” he said.
Horowitz acknowledged those who made this show and shows in general possible. He highlighted the entire JAS National Council membership, and other friends, including Stevie Gilman, Donna Di Lanni and Shelton Berg. He said Charles was a JAS student and young musician who became one of their tutors.
He said he was honoured to have Charles celebrate his birthday and perform at the venue.
Written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to T&T and the world over, Charles, dressed in neon leaf-green, double-breasted jacket, jazzy undershirt, black trousers and zebra-striped loafers, was introduced by Horowitz.
He wasted no time on stage and throughout the show played the trumpet, the congas sang, whistled, sparred with fellow musicians, and even demonstrated some dance moves.
Charles introduced the members of his band, including Godwin Louis of Connecticut on alto saxophone; Alex Wint, New Jersey, guitar; Barry Stephens, Florida, bass; Kareem Thompson, California, steelpan; and the lone female who kept the rhythm flowing, Jamaican Savannah Harris, who is based in California, on drums.
Also on stage were his cousins, Keith who assisted on percussions, and Richard, with the Trini dance moves.
The birthday concert opened with two of Charles’ original compositions, Dame Lorraine and Moko Jumbies, from his album Carnival, followed by a Duke Ellington’s Caravan written by Juan Tizol. Also on the playbill were Henry Mancini’s Lujon from the movie Mr Lucky Goes Latin, and Bob Marley’s Turn the Lights Down Low, which he dedicated to all the lovers and to his parents who were in the virtual audience.
Charles, an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at the Frost School of Music, made known that his parents are true lovers who will be celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary in September.
He urged the audience to give a big shout out to them: “Hello mom! Hello dad,” and expressed pleasure in the benefits the digital realm has shown the world.
“We create bigger audiences,” he said.
Known for infusing rhythms of the French, English, Spanish and Dutch-speaking Caribbean in his repertoires, Charles ended the show on a fiery up-tempo calypso rendition, where each musician showed their musical prowess.As he acknowledged the standing ovation, Charles noted that the audience was clapping but not dancing.
Drummer Savannah Harris in action.
“I notice we played calypso. You all stood up but didn’t dance, so I’m going to teach you how it’s done. I’ll teach you four basic steps,” he said.
Charles then gave an impromptu demonstration of how to chip, wine, jook, and jump like a Trini and assured the Jazz Aspen crowd that they were ready for the next Trinidad carnival.
He thanked all who made the concert a success.
Charles is expected to start teaching at the Henry Mancini Institute in Miami later this year.
Alto saxophonist, Godwin Louis, left, spars with Etienne Charles.