Hailed by The New York Times as "an auteur" (Ben Ratliff), Trinidad born Etienne Charles has received critical acclaim for his exciting performances, thrilling compositions and knack for connecting with audiences worldwide. Charles brings careful study of myriad rhythms from the French, Spanish, English and Dutch speaking Caribbean to his compositions. Charles’ latest album, Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1, is an excursion into the varied acoustic sounds, grooves, chants and rituals of his native Trinidad & Tobago Carnival.
His 2016 album San Jose Suite was a musical discourse on the effects of colonialism through the scope of the experiences of First Nation peoples and Afro-descendants in three San Jose locations, Costa Rica, California and Trinidad. In 2012, he was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad & Tobago and the World. In 2013, his album Creole Soul reached #1 for three weeks on the Jazzweek chart and was eventually named #3 Jazz Album of the year by Jazzweek. Also in 2013 he received the Caribbean Heritage Trailblazer award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies. In 2015, Charles was named as a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in the Creative Arts. In 2016 he was the recipient of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Millennial Swing award and was a featured panelist and performer at the White House for a Caribbean Heritage Month Briefing. He made his debut as producer and songwriter on the album Petite Afrique which won Outstanding Jazz Album at the 2018 NAACP Image Awards. He has been featured as a bandleader at the Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Atlanta Jazz Festival, Pittsburgh JazzLive international Festival, San Jose Jazz Festival, Java Jazz Festival, St. Lucia Jazz Festival, Library of Congress, Carnegie Hall and Koerner Hall. He has been commissioned as a composer and arranger by the Savannah Music Festival, Chamber Music America, the Charleston Jazz Orchestra and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble.