Friday, June 14, 2024

Etienne Charles - Creole Orchestra

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Notes from the Producer/Arranger 

WOW! A Big Band record.  

A dream come true.

In many musical situations the Arranger has become the ghost; one of the first working on a project and many times the last to be recognized.  This album would not have been possible without the inspiration of countless arrangers: Thad Jones, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Nelson Riddle, Mary Lou Williams, Melba Liston, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Slide Hampton, Frankie Francis and Ron Berridge to name a few.

Special love to Gerald Wilson. Frank 'Fos' Foster. Johnny Mandel. Pat Williams, John Clayton, Maria Schneider and Christian McBride who I was able to learn from playing their arrangements and compositions with them.”

- Etienne Charles

Sometimes the music on a new recording is as colorful as the illustrations, images and photographs it comes packaged in.

Such is the case with Etienne Charles - Creole Orchestra featuring Rene Marie which drops today [June 14, 2024] on Culture Shock Records.

And to continue the colors metaphor, if big band arranging is all about generating “colors” or textures [the actual sound of the music], then there is a plethora of these on hand in the arranging and orchestrating on Etienne Charles.

Etienne's charts [music speak for arrangements] are very much of the time; perhaps, contemporary might be a better term. They reflect the musical world of today, which is what Jazz in all its manifestations has always done.

And yet, as Etienne notes in his introduction to the recording, his writing also pays homage to the Jazz tradition, which is considerable as Jazz enters into its second century. 100 years ago, Don Redman, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington were creating the initial sonority of big band Jazz by incorporating the cultural influence of the Roaring Twenties into their music. 

Their pioneering work would really blossom with the advent of the Swing Era which followed in the 1930s.

Etienne pays his respects to this line in the tradition with his own arrangement of Stompin’ at the Savoy, a Swing Era standard that featured in the repertoire of many orchestras.


He also gives us a chance to “set our ears" to his arranging style by incorporating charts on the familiar Jazz melodies of Joe Henderson’s A Shade of Jade and the old war horses, Centerpiece and Night Train.

These become a point of departure for Etienne’s orchestrated excursions into the music of his time and within this context, he offers a fascinating journey into contemporary Jazz big band arranging.

A special shout out is due to lead trumpeter Jumaane Smith, lead alto saxophonist Michael Thomas and drummer Obed Calvaire for helping to guide Etienne’s charts wherever he wants them to go.

For those of you in the New York City area, Etienne will be at Dizzy’s from June 14-16, 2024.

Terri Hinte is in charge of Media Relations for Etienne Charles - Creole Orchestra featuring Rene Marie and she sent along a bunch of great stuff which I’ve shared below to further hip you on what’s on hand in Etienne’s exciting new project.








“Etienne Charles presents himself to the jazz world as an accomplished large-ensemble arranger with Creole Orchestra, set for a June 14 release on his own Culture Shock imprint. The album is the premiere of the titular band, 22 musicians strong and specializing in executing the Trinbagonian trumpeter's elaborate charts.

Long hailed for his work as a trumpeter, composer, and improviser, as well as for his deep knowledge of rhythms from his native Trinidad & Tobago and around the Eastern Caribbean, Charles has mostly worked with small combos over his nearly 20-year career. He had written only a few pieces for large ensemble when vocalist Rene Marie tasked him with arranging for a full set of big band tunes to take on the road.

That was "baptism by fire," Charles recalls. "Okay, now I'm a big band writer." And, as Creole Orchestra makes clear, he is a shrewd and inventive one. It's not just anyone who can orchestrate both the classic swing anthem "Stompin' at the Savoy" and Bell Biv Devoe's new jack swing hit "Poison" with equal flair and crispness. Those are just two of the many dimensions Charles explores on the album.

Marie herself is a featured guest, taking the vocal spotlight for four of the 13 tracks — including "I Wanna Be Evil," Eartha Kitt's theme song that was the centerpiece of Marie and Charles's first collaboration (her 2013 album of the same name), as well as the jazz standard "Centerpiece" and two of her own originals. Rapper Brandon Rose and turntablist DJ Logic appear together on "Poison," connecting Charles's arrangement with the song's hip-hop roots.

The ensemble and its various soloists put in exemplary work as well. Lead trumpeter Jumaane Smith and trombonist Michael Dease both give standout performances on Monty Alexander's reggae-spiced "Think Twice"; bassist Ben Williams wows with his soulful improv on the hard-swinging "Night Train"; while Charles, alto saxophonist Godwin Louis, and pianist Sullivan Fortner illuminate the leader's calypso "Douens."

The real stars of Creole Orchestra, of course, are Charles's sterling charts. "In many musical situations the Arranger has become the ghost," he writes in the album notes. "One of the first working on a project and many times the last to be recognized." No more.

Etienne Charles was born July 24, 1983 in Port-of-Spain, the capital city of the island nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Carrying the torch of Caribbean musical traditions in all their eclectic facets is, itself, a family tradition for the Charleses. Etienne's father, Francis, was both a member of the Trinidadian steel band Phase II Pan Groove and the owner of a colossal record collection, and Etienne thus grew up soaking in music. He learned to play trumpet as a boy, and by high school he, too, was a member of Phase II Pan Groove.

But jazz had gotten Etienne's attention, and he moved to the United States in 2002 to matriculate at Florida State University—where he found his way to the celebrated pianist and educator Marcus Roberts, who became his mentor. He quickly gained not only a mastery of the jazz tradition, but the recognition to prove it. Charles placed second at the 2005 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition in Bangkok, Thailand, then took first place a year later at the U.S. National Trumpet Competition in Fairfax, Virginia. He was also awarded a full scholarship to The Juilliard School of Music, where he earned both a master's degree and an entrée into the cutthroat New York jazz scene.

Charles not only survived but thrived in that scene, recording and performing with artists ranging from Maria Schneider to Wynton Marsalis to Rene Marie. He also made a striking impression as a leader, injecting his encyclopedic knowledge of Caribbean music and rhythms into an improvised jazz context. He recorded his debut album Culture Shock in 2006 and followed it with nine more, of which Creole Orchestra is the latest.

Etienne Charles will be appearing at Dizzy's, NYC, 6/14-16; Fete de la Musique, Miami Beach (FL) Bandshell, 6/21; Caramoor Festival, Katonah, NY (w/ Rene Marie), 7/18; Carlyle Room, Washington, DC, 7/26; Riverside Center for the Arts, Fredericksburg, VA, 7/27; JAS Café, Aspen, CO, 8/10; Missy Lane's Assembly Room, Durham, NC, 10/11-12. •

And here is a detailed biographical information sheet on Etienne.

“Defined by a riveting array of Caribbean rhythms. Etienne Charles's first album featuring his big band arrangements is a personal triumph, but Creole Orchestra is also part of a much larger story. In the early 1940s, as terrible conflict engulfed the world, the United States leased tracts of land on Trinidad to establish two naval air bases. Charles's new recording flows from the cultural forces unleashed by those installations.

Connecting obscure World War II military outposts in the south Caribbean to a state-of-the-art Pan-American jazz project might seem like a stretch, but it echoes Charles's creative journey from Trinidad to New York City. Along with the military bases came Trinidad's first radio station, "and the music played was big band music. Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington," Charles says. "You immediately started hearing mini-big band arrangements mimicking the Ellington and Miller styles on Trinidadian calypso recordings."

It's no coincidence that Charles experienced one of his first musical epiphanies as a nine-year-old at his uncle's wedding, when Lord Kitchener's 12 Bar Joan (inspired by Miller's 1939 hit "In the Mood") came on "and I started dancing like a maniac, mimicking the clarinet." Across an enthralling spectrum of Caribbean grooves, the music on Creole Orchestra is grounded in that dance-floor imperative.

Drawing on material from several different commissions and projects, the album encompasses the key players from Charles's band Creole Soul. Over the past decade the ensemble has showcased many of the most accomplished Caribbean-rooted players on the U.S. scene, including Creole Orchestra contributors such as the Haitian-American rhythm section tandem of drummer Obed Calvaire and bassist Jonathan Michel. New Orleans pianist keyboardist Sullivan Fortner. Bahamian trumpeter Giveton Gelin. Port-au-Prince-raised saxophonist Godwin Louis, and Venezuelan cuatro maestro Jorge Glem.

In many ways the album tracks the evolution of Charles's big band writing, starting with the opening piece, the calypso-powered "Old School." which he originally recorded on his 2006 debut album Culture Shock. Expanded for the orchestra, the part) -setting arrangement introduces some of the band's most vivid improvisers. The hard-charging "Douens" was another small group original that he rearranged for a program of his work commissioned by the Chicago Jazz Ensemble in 2011 for his debut at the Harris Theater. "That's when I started writing for big band." says Charles, and things moved quickly after that.

A commission from the Charleston Jazz Orchestra resulted in "Holy City," his first composition written for big band. The dramatic contrast of flutes and bass clarinet in the opening passage teases the lush voicings to come. It wasn't long afterwards that the great jazz vocalist and songwriter Rene Marie recruited Charles to write charts for her 2013 album I Wanna Be Evil I With Love to Eartha Kitt). When she needed big band charts to take on the road. Charles stepped out, a process he describes as "baptism by fire. Okay, now I'm a big band writer."

Their collaboration courses through the album, starting with "I Wanna Be Evil." a song that's become a calling card for Marie. But Creole Orchestra also highlights her exemplary songwriting skills, with a tender arrangement of her "Colorado River Song." which belongs in the American Songbook "Slow Boat to China" subgenre. and her exquisitely sensual ballad "Take My Breath Away" which features a particularly captivating Alex Wintz guitar solo.

Charles's tenure at Michigan State and now at University of Miami Frost School of Music availed him numerous opportunities to continue his big band journey, and he took to writing new pieces for every jazz orchestra concert. He put a hip-hop spin on Dr. Freeze's "Poison" for a swing dance concert "where the bands would try to outdo each other with some hip arrangement." Charles says. "The rapper on the piece. Brandon Rose was a student in my band, and I had to bring him back for this." The great DJ Logic supplies the scratching.

For hipness it's hard to beat this version of Joe Henderson's "A Shade of Jade." or Rene Marie sashaying through the classic Harry "Sweets" Edison and Jon Hendricks blues "Centerpiece" (listen to Former's supremely soulful piano work). Slow and greasy, the tune is an homage to Frank Foster, "one of my biggest inspirations as an arranger." says Charles, who spent several years in Foster's Loud Minority big band. The album closes with Jimmy Forrest's juke joint standard "Night Train." a sleek Streamliner of an arrangement featuring a series of crackling solos, starting with Charles himself.

While Creole Orchestra is his tenth album as a leader. Charles has earned more renown with his work outside the studio in recent years. He's been landing increasingly prestigious commissions, like San Juan Hill: A New York Story, his 2022 assignment for the rechristening of Avery Fisher Hall as the New York Philharmonic's newly opened David Geffen Hall that drew extensive—and ecstatic—media coverage. The same year he also received a Creative Capital grant to develop Earth Tones, a multimedia jazz production featuring original compositions developed with peoples and regions severely affected by climate change. It's a topic that directly hits home, as Trinidad and Tobago are already contending with sea level rise and extreme weather systems.

Scion of an illustrious musical clan, born in 1983 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Etienne Charles is the fourth generation of his family to advance Caribbean music. Born in the overseas French department of Martinique, his great-grandfather Clement Monlouis immigrated to Trinidad and passed along the folk music he absorbed in his village. His grandfather, Ralph Charles, developed an innovative style on the four-string cuatro, the national instrument of nearby Venezuela.

Charles notes that his family's mixed origins reflect the diversity that's characterized Trinidad since the 16th century. "It was the New York of the Caribbean," he says. "It was the first place in the Western world to have Chinese immigrants. There were waves of Syrians and Lebanese, East Indians, and a strong Venezuelan connection, which is why I play the cuatro."

While he doesn't usually travel with the cuatro ("It's a very delicate instrument," Charles says), he played it on his earlier recordings, as well as various hand percussion instruments like the djembe. The instruments all reflect Trinidad and Tobago's multifarious history. Decades before the British took firm control of the island in 1797 it had been settled by a wave of planters from Haiti, and the first generations of calypsonians sang in patois quite similar to Haitian Creole. "All

my family understood patois," Charles says. "My grandparents came from the Spanish side, and there's a strong connection to Guadeloupe and Martinique too."

All this mixing led to a rich and uniquely Trinidadian culture, from Carnival and calypso to steel pan orchestras. Etienne's father, Francis Charles, was an early member of Phase II Pan Groove, one of the first groups to perform original compositions in the all-important steel band competitions. Etienne joined the group himself in high school, though by the time he left for college at Florida State University he was starting to explore jazz. Lee Morgan's swaggering trumpet solo on the title track of John Coltrane's great 1957 Blue Note album Blue Train seized his imagination as a freshman, and he found an ideal mentor in pianist Marcus Roberts.

The celebrated blind pianist took Charles under his wing in an old-school master/apprentice relationship. The trumpeter would pick up Roberts in the morning and take him on errands. They'd get meals together, and spend most of the day in each other's company, with the conversation often turning toward music.

"He always said make sure you put where you're from in your music," Charles says. "Marcus would say that going backwards is the only way to go forwards, and you can hear the lineage in his music. I've studied Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, but I've also learned about the history of calypso, going back to shango rhythms from the Yoruba."

After finishing his studies in Florida, Charles relocated to New York City, where he earned a Master of Jazz Studies degree from Juilliard. He's won numerous awards for his trumpet prowess, was selected a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, and has honed an increasingly confident sound steeped in his Trinidadian roots. More than a virtuoso, Charles is a visionary whose creative purview encompasses the twisted cultural strands connected Africa to the Americas. With Creole Orchestra, he brings that capacious vision to a similarly expansive instrumental palette.”

Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra

(Culture Shock Music) Street Date: June 14.2024

Web Site: 




Thursday, June 13, 2024

J.S. Bach: Chorale Dave Brubeck and Dave Van Kreidt REUNION

Piano: Dave Brubeck, Alto Saxophone: Paul Desmond Tenor Saxophone: Dave Van Kriedt, Bass:Norman Bates, Drums: Joe Morello Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach Arranger, Work Arranger: Dave Van Kriedt

A Night In Tunisia - Lee Morgan with Pepper Adams

Trumpet: Lee Morgan, Baritone Saxophone: Pepper Adams, Piano: Bobby Timmons, Bass, Paul Chambers, Drums: Philly Joe Jones

Curtis Amy & Dupree Bolton - Lonely Woman

Monday, June 10, 2024

Voyage - Stan Getz & Kenny Barron

Laura - Don Byas

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Bill Holman Obituary by Gordon Jack

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved

"I used to think that writing a jazz arrangement was like a stream of consciousness, the same as a jazz solo. You just started playing and built on what you just played. Then you go on to the next thing and never repeat yourself. After a few years it finally dawned on me that the ear wants to hear something it recognizes, so I started concentrating on the shape of an entire piece, the form, and how it builds to a climax. As a writer, you also want to avoid getting to the climax too soon. If you do, you'll kill yourself trying to top it in the arrangement. And the result is monotony. Writing music and arranging never gets easy. I've had students ask me, 'How long does it take before it gets easy?' I tell them, 'Never'. As soon as you get to one point in your development, you're looking at the next level."

- Bill Holman

Gordon Jack is a frequent contributor to the Jazz Journal and a very generous friend in allowing JazzProfiles to re-publish his perceptive and well-researched writings on various topics about Jazz and its makers.

Gordon is the author of Fifties Jazz Talk An Oral Retrospective and he also developed the Gerry Mulligan discography in Raymond Horricks’ book Gerry Mulligan’s Ark.

The following article was published in the June 4, 2024 edition of Jazz Journal. Based in the UK Gordon uses English spelling.

For more information and subscriptions please visit                 

© -Gordon Jack/JazzJournal, copyright protected; all rights reserved; used with the author’s permission.

One of the most accomplished arranger-composers to emerge during the nineteen-fifties, Bill Holman was born in Orange County, Los Angeles on 21 May 1927. Andre Previn once observed that “Holman was a first rate saxophonist but his true instrument is the orchestra and he plays it with musicianship, honesty and brilliance”.

Beginning on clarinet he soon switched to the tenor after hearing Lester Young with Count Basie. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946 and then enrolled at the Westlake College of Music from 1948 to 1951 with the aid of the G.I. bill. He also studied counterpoint privately with Russ Garcia with particular reference to his book The Professional Arranger and Composer. He joined Charlie Barnet in 1950 in a band that included Eddie Wasserman, Dick Meldonian and Claude Williamson. It was his good friend Gene Roland who recommended him to Stan Kenton in late 1951. Holman had written a twelve-tone blues which he showed to Roland who said “I think this is what Stan is looking for”. By early 1952 there was a vacancy because Bob Cooper was leaving, so Holman took over on tenor and joined a writing team that included Gerry Mulligan, Bob Graettinger, Pete Rugolo, Johnny Richards and Shorty Rogers. Mulligan’s writing had a profound influence on Holman – “I loved his charts so much.” His arrangements often reflected Gerry’s contrapuntal approach prompting this comment from Mulligan “The first chart I took to a rehearsal was rejected by Stan but the next day Bill Holman brought in an arrangement that sounded more like me than I did!”

One of his earliest charts for the band was Invention For Guitar And Trumpet which appeared on New Concepts Of Artistry In Rhythm in 1952. It was also heard in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle starring Glenn Ford. Bill felt that by 1955 “Stan more or less turned the band over to AL Porcino and Mel Lewis and they set about getting the band to swing” which they certainly did on Contemporary Concepts that year. It featured his famous paraphrase of Stompin’ At The Savoy which has twelve bars in the A sections instead of eight and remained in the book for years. The album also included two of his own favourite charts – What’s New and Stella By Starlight. He had by now become chief arranger and continued to write off and on for Kenton until 1977.

When he left Kenton as a player he joined a thriving West Coast jazz scene recording on tenor and occasionally on baritone with Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, Stan Levey, Chet Baker, Med Flory, Art Pepper, Jimmy Rowles, Conte Candoli and many more. He co-led a group with Mel Lewis featuring Jack Sheldon and Jimmy Rowles that appeared at the Jazz Cellar in Los Angeles. He also provided iconic big band charts for Maynard Ferguson, Billy May, Gerry Mulligan, Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet, Les Brown, Harry James and Terry Gibbs.  His own big band recorded The Fabulous Bill Holman (1957), In A Jazz Orbit (1958) with an Andre Previn sleeve-note and Great Big Band (1960). In the late fifties he was quoted saying “What I Like to capture is a real jazz spirit so that no matter how much is written down, the music should have all the feeling of improvisation”.

In 1960 he received his first Grammy nomination for Peggy Lee’s I’m Gonna Go Fishin’ and he went on to work with many other singers including Mel Torme’, Carmen McRae, Natalie Cole, Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie & Roy, Tony Bennett and Pearl Bailey. He arranged for Manhattan Transfer and the Fifth Dimension and from 1966 he contributed several notable charts to   Buddy Rich’s big band including The Midnight Cowboy Medley from the 1970 Keep The Customer Satisfied LP/CD.

In 1975 he formed the Bill Holman Band, a sixteen-piece ensemble which rehearsed once a week for the next forty- five years at the Musicians’ Union Local 47 in Hollywood. I am indebted to my friend Steve Cerra from Santa Ana California who has provided an extensive list of musicians who have been involved over the years which includes Al Porcino, Charlie Mariano, Herb Geller, Carl Saunders, Lanny Morgan, Jeff Hamilton, Jack Sheldon, Pete Christlieb, Bill Perkins (Holman’s oldest friend), Bob Cooper and Frank Rosolino. In a 1999 interview Christlieb told me “There is nobody in the world who can shine Bill Holman’s shoes when it comes to writing for a big band”.  The band regularly appeared at the annual festival organised by the Los Angeles Jazz Institute. It also recorded on five occasions: The Bill Holman Band (1987); A View From The Side (1995) which received a Grammy Award for the title track. The sleeve-note also includes tributes from Manny Albam, Bob Brookmeyer, Ralph Burns, Benny Carter, Quincy Jones, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mandel, Gerry Mulligan, Maria Schneider, Artie Shaw and Gerald Wilson; Brilliant Corners: The Music Of Thelonious Monk (1997) which received a Grammy Award for Straight No Chaser; Live (2005) and Homage (2007).

He frequently ran composing/arranging Master Classes throughout the US and Europe. In 2000 the Smithsonian Institute established the Bill Holman Collection housing scores and memorabilia. In 2010 the National Endowment for the Arts bestowed the NEA Jazz Masters Award on “Composer, arranger and tenor saxophonist Bill Holman”. A film Charting Jazz: The Mastery of Bill Holman is currently in production.

(Bill) Willis Leonard Holman died peacefully of natural causes at his home in the Hollywood Hills on 6 May 2024.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Victor Feldman All Stars – Soviet Jazz Themes (1963)

Victor brought a bunch of tunes back with him that Soviet Union musicians gave him during his early 1960s tour with Benny Goodman.
He's joined by Nat Adderley, cornet, Harold Land, ts, Joe Zawinul, p, Bob Whitlock, b, and Frank Butler, d, on the first three tracks and add Carmel Jones, tpt, Herb Ellis, g, in place of Adderley, and Zawinul on tracks 4-6.