Spoleto Festival Sideman Etienne Charles Creates a Joyful, Worldly Sound

by Madonna

A well-known and respected jazz artist like drummer Terri Lyne Carrington understands the importance of surrounding herself with talented and empathetic musicians.

Jazz is fundamentally a musical dialogue, relying on the contributions of sidemen and women to foster conversation, with the entire band inviting audience participation.


For her performance at this year’s Spoleto Festival USA, Carrington put together an exceptional band, which includes Trinidadian musician Etienne Charles.


Charleston audiences might recognize Charles. He has previously performed with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, led gigs at the now-closed venue The Mezz, and recorded music with local drummer and engineer Quentin Baxter.


Among Charles’ notable musical projects is “Gullah Roots,” inspired by his connections with the Lowcountry and his ethnomusicological interests. He is a journeyman, a synthesizer of ideas, and a student of diverse cultures.

In Carrington’s band, Charles plays the trumpet. He is a particularly skilled trumpeter whose worldly perspective and curiosity have led to a musical fusion, showcasing his fascination with the African diaspora and its cultural expressions.

“It’s great playing with him because it’s all there,” Carrington remarked.

Charles and Carrington first met in 2015 when Charles was premiering his San Jose Suite at a California jazz festival. They played together again in 2021 on a double bill in Connecticut. After hearing his band, Carrington invited Charles to be a resident artist at San Francisco Jazz, leading to numerous collaborations since.

“It’s so much fun to be a sideman,” Charles said. “You can literally just show up and play.”


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