Michigan State prof. brings Creole jazz to East Lansing

Sep 12, 2013

When you think of East Lansing, you probably don’t think about the sounds of Creole Louisiana.

But Etienne Charles might be changing that. A trumpeter from Trinidad, Charles is now an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University. His latest album, “Creole Soul,” has been described as both “easy to listen to” and “intellectually sound” by The New York Times, blending sounds from the Caribbean, New Orleans and Midwestern R&B.

Despite his rich repertoire of jazz, Charles got a late start to the genre.

“I discovered jazz pretty late actually,” Charles said. “I started listening to recordings seriously, actually, when I was in university at Florida State.”

But once Charles heard trumpeter Lee Morgan, he knew that jazz was for him.

“When I heard Lee Morgan’s trumpet on “Blue Train, that was the moment when I like... this is what I want to play,” Charles said. “That style. Improvisation. I was hooked.”

Charles went on to continue studying music at Florida State and later Juilliard before accepting a job teaching at Michigan State. Charles says his students have played an instrumental role in shaping his compositions.

“My students probably have more influence on me than I do on them,” Charles said.


Listen to the full interview above.


- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom