Etienne Charles: Special to have Chucho Valdés performing in Trinidad

Double bassist David
Double bassist David "Happy 'Willams (left) and trumpeter Etienne Charles. -

The New York Times calls Cuban pianist, composer and seven-time Grammy winner Chucho Valdés, “A pianist of imperial command, possessed of a dazzling, deceptively casual virtuosity,” and refers to Trinidadian trumpeter and composer Etienne Charles as “an auteur.”

These two important Caribbean musicians will perform for the première event of HADCO Experiences’ entrée into the premium event space with A Creole Christmas Gift: Concert and Cocktails on December 16 at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Frederick Street, Port of Spain.

Those international accolades from the New York Times have a bearing on what audiences can and will see and hear at the concert, as do the keen observations of Charles, a media release said.

Chucho Valdez - AP Photo

Charles spoke recently of the show, and the importance of the headliner, Valdés, to the event and to the Caribbean. “I think, one, it’s special, and two, it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event for TT to have an artist of this magnitude in what I would say is such an intimate setting, " he said in the release.

“Chucho Valdés is probably one of the most influential, not only musicians, but composers and recording artists of the 21st century, and the 20th century. He possesses a vast knowledge of not just the piano, but composition and music, as well as spirituality. To have him on our shores for a concert is special!”

Charles explained that “a big part of what I see as the Caribbean artistic aesthetic is about clarity, and when I think of Chucho Valdés, I think about clarity. I think of his ideas being expressed musically without any stumbles. I think of his body of work as having huge impact in terms of where he is taking his music, what he has been an ambassador for. I mean, he has been an ambassador for jazz, an ambassador for Cuba, an ambassador for the Caribbean, an ambassador for black people, an ambassador for the Orishas.

Jazz singer Vaughnette Bigford -

"There are so any different ways that he represents, and at the end of the day, it’s always with the highest level of artistry and the highest levels of diplomacy. He is able to use music as a tool to communicate peace, and to communicate how music is supposed to energise people and keep us together in civilised ways.”

The importance of Valdés can not be underestimated nor undervalued. He is a colossus in the Caribbean jazz community. Charles was fortunate to tour with this icon and his big band in the last several months through Europe and into North America, where they performed to sold-out audiences by the thousands at concert spaces there, the release said.

Charles continued his observations by noting that “it’s always incredible to see Chucho’s reach. It’s refreshing also, as a Caribbean man, to see the possibilities of global acceptance of Caribbean music when it is, one, presented correctly, and two, when there is an opportunity for this music to have it’s place on a global stage.”

After a recent concert performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the buzz to bring Valdés to Trinidad was begun by Trinis in the diaspora community there, Charles recalled. “We as a people need to be exposed to this level of artistry without having to buy a plane ticket." He said the event is creating unique experiences for Trinbagonians, and also people from all over the Caribbean.

People from other islands are coming in for the Trinidad show in which Valdés will be performing within his Royal Quartet that also includes the musical mastery of his fellow Cubans, bassist José Armando Gola, percussionist Roberto Junior Vizcaíno Torre and drummer Horatio "El Negro" Hernández, the release said.

The concert experience, which combines sublime music with a post-concert mix and mingle, featuring speciality food, premium drinks and cocktails, presents a creole take on the holiday celebration in a season of annual Christmas pageants and choral events that sometimes are still beholden to the idea of warm woollen mittens and sleigh rides, the release said.

Charles’s varied and popular musical guests include Venezuelan cuatro master Jorge Glem, and US-based Trinidad music giants David "Happy" Williams on bass and Robert Greenidge on pan, among others. Singer and creole chanteuse, Vaughnette Bigford, will be another guest artiste. “Her star has been steadily rising...she’s definitely my first choice many times when I do shows, we have some interesting arrangements that I am working on for her,” says Charles.

The mix of folk and popular music from the local and global songbooks make for another direction for how local audiences can celebrate the music of the season, both dynamic and varied. The “intimate setting” of the Lord Kitchener Auditorium gives the audience an opportunity to hear the instruments without any other competing sounds: Charles adds, “you really get to hear the warmth of a cuatro, you really get to hear the complexity of the sound of ‘Happy’ William’s bass.”

Tickets for A Creole Christmas Gift: Concert and Cocktails are $800 each.

Doors open at 5 pm, showtime is 7 pm.


"Etienne Charles: Special to have Chucho Valdés performing in Trinidad"

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