Even after all that sophisticated musical training, Charles remains passionately dedicated to the music he grew up with. From the way he carries himself on stage to the way he approaches the hand drum, tinges of Trinidad form an essential part of his personality. His recordings have featured calypso vocals that celebrate a marriage of bebop with the legacy of such Trinidadian masters as Lord Kitchener and the Mighty Sparrow, and his trumpet playing likewise exhibits the musical flavors of his island home. Even when he’s playing up-tempo numbers, there’s a relaxed, behind-the-beat spice in the mix, and his ballads are deliciously wistful, as if he were thinking of other places, other sunsets, other rooms.
These days Charles tours all over the world, but his new home is in the Midwest, at Michigan State University, where he teaches in the jazz program. He brings a band of fellow professors to the Kerrytown Concert House on May 4.
[Originally published in May, 2012.]