Etienne Charles Associate Professor of Jazz Trumpet


  • Jazz Studies

317 Music Practice Building
East Lansing, MI 48824

(517) 432-9791

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Video Interview


Born on the Island of Trinidad in 1983, Etienne Charles defies easy musical categorization. He has been hailed by New York Times as “an auteur” and by Jazz Times as “A daring improviser who delivers with heart wrenching lyricism.” According to Downbeat Magazine “Charles delivers his ebullient improvisations with the elegance of a world-class ballet dancer.” Etienne has received critical acclaim for his exciting performances, thrilling compositions and knack for connecting with audiences worldwide. In June 2012, Etienne was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad & Tobago and the World. 

Perhaps more than any other musician of his generation or Eastern Caribbean origin, Etienne brings a careful study of myriad rhythms from the French, Spanish, English and Dutch speaking Caribbean to the table. Crucially, as a soloist, he fully understands the New Orleans trumpet tradition (which is readily discernible in his trademark instrumental swagger) and what famed Crescent City Pianist, Jelly Roll Morton so succinctly captured in the now immortal phrase, 'The Spanish Tinge'. 

His latest recording, Creole Soul (Culture Shock Music 2013) has received worldwide critical acclaim for it’s fusion of root grooves from the Afro-Caribbean (3 weeks at #1 Jazzweek Chart, iTunes #5, #3 Jazzweek top 100 of 2013, #25 Billboard Jazz Chart). His previous release, Kaiso (Culture Shock Music 2011), features his arrangements and interpretations of the music of calypso legends Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow and the Roaring Lion.

As a sideman he has performed and or recorded with Monty Alexander, Roberta Flack, Frank Foster, Ralph MacDonald, Johnny Mandel, Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Maria Schneider, Count Basie Orchestra, Eric Reed, Lord Blakie, David Rudder and many others. 

Etienne Charles holds a Master's degree from the Juilliard School and a Bachelor's degree from Florida State University.