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Salon Sessions: Etienne Charles on the Roots of Carnival, and the Drive Behind 'Creole Soul'

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Etienne Charles with Salon Sessions host Sheila Anderson.

The ebullient Etienne Charles does a masterful job explaining the history of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival that goes back to African enslavement.

His new album, Creole Soul, traces its musical roots — from when the bamboo drum was banned in Trinidad to the development of the steel pan drum. Carnival is a celebration of emancipation as well as a dialogue between a society and its past and present, at the same time.

Charles also shares stories of when he met trumpeter Clark Terry, who taught the likes of Quincy Jones and Miles Davis, and his importance to the lineage of jazz. While in college, Charles was blessed to work with Roberta Flack and Ralph MacDonald. Now an assistant professor at Michigan State, he insists on teaching his students the past by making them learn King Oliver’s solo on “King Porter Stomp.”

 

As Charles puts it: “Jazz is Creole music — music of the new world, music for everybody.”

Sheila E. Anderson, whose moniker, “Queen of Hang,” is a mover and shaker in the world of art, most notably in jazz. Much focus is placed upon the artists and rightfully so, yet Ms. Anderson is feeding and affecting the scene in myriad ways. She has always taken on the challenges of creating opportunities for herself, developing formats that exist outside the box. In addition to being an on-air-host she is an author, a writer, emcee and moderator. In 1995, she was hired by WBGO, Newark, 88.3FM to host Sunday Morning Harmony, where she now hosts Weekend Jazz After Hours, Salon Sessions and the Sunday Night Music Mix. Ms. Anderson has learned from the musicians whom she spins, "I feel as though radio programming should function much like a live performance. My best shows happen when I am feeling completely free to move with a certain flow and program according to my emotions," Ms. Anderson explains. These are not the words of some novice who just likes jazz music.