KAISO is the third recording as a leader for talented trumpeter Etienne Charles, following his two well-received projects, Culture Shock, and Folklore. It continues a theme that he has embraced from the outset of his recording career: an immersion in, and a respect for the music, and by extension, the culture, of his native Trinidad: the sound of calypso.
Whereas his first two recordings consisted, for the most part, of original compositions inspired by the music he grew up with, this time the inspiration is of a different sort: specific, classic calypso songs by some of the music’s most renowned and popular performers. Three of them, Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, and Roaring Lion, have particular significance to Etienne. “Kitch, Sparrow and Lion were the first Calypsonians whose songs I began learning and studying at an early age. Each of these masters has their own catchy trait. Kitch for his melodies and his bouncy phrases; Sparrow for his voice and portrayal of his characters in his songs, and Lion for his wit and his way of turning lyrics, and fusing African, French creole, Venezuelan, and European sounds into his calypsos.
The term “kaiso” originated in Nigeria, and literally means “go on” or “continue.” In the current, popular usage of the word in the Caribbean, audiences use it to exhort the musicians; to encourage them, to “play on!” “Kaiso” is the verbal response to the energy that comes from being inspired by something you see or hear: a performance, a sound, a dance, a lyric, a cry. It’s found in many different cultures of the African diaspora, and as such, connects us.” It’s an important point to remember, because while calypso is the inspiration and essential component on Kaiso, the engine that drives the recording is its jazz sensibility, and the combination of the two fit like hand in glove. As a seasoned jazz musician who has performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander (a guest on the recording), Marcus Roberts, and The Count Basie Orchestra, the concept of this cd is perfectly natural for Charles. The range of emotion reflected in his statement about his impression of “kaiso” is heard throughout, as the rich melodies of the ensemble performances are interpreted by Charles and his sterling bandmates with a vigor and improvisational verve that brings the cultural power of these selections to life. Songs like “J’Ouvert Barrio” (Roaring Lion), “Russian Satellite”(Mighty Sparrow), “Sugar Bum Bum” (Lord Kitchener), and especially “Kitch’s Bebop Of Calypso”, with its theme of the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis (Lord Kitchener) underscore the natural, easy relationship between the music, harmonies and rhythms of Calypso and jazz.