She grew up singing and playing music in a Baptist church in Brooklyn, and in the years since has performed in venues around the globe. But this Sunday, Melanie Charles will once again perform in a setting much like the one where it all began, this time headlining the opening session of the seventh year of Jazz Vespers at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Clinton Hill.
Charles, now 29, is a Bushwick native who as a young girl learned to play piano from the organist at Holy Trinity Baptist Church. She also trained as an opera singer, and attended the prestigious LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. Later, she enrolled in the New School’s jazz program, and along the way came under the tutelage of such jazz masters as Reggie Workman, Bobby Sanabria, Junior Mance, Janet Lawson, Carla Cook, and Billy Harper.
Her musical journey has taken her to such world-renowned cities, and venues, as: New York [Jazz at Lincoln Center; The Blue Note; Smalls, Nublu], London [Ronnie Scott’s], Paris [Duc de Lombards], Japan [Billboard Live], Prague [12on14]; Harris Piano Jazz Bar] and Germany and Russia.
Charles’ creative fluidity spans jazz, soul, experimental, and her own Haitian roots. She is a regular visitor to Haiti, and her ties to her culture are strong; in fact, she has been acknowledged as one of the most important women in Haitian music by the Haitian Jazz Foundation.
In 2015, Charles partnered with guitarist Jordan Peters — who has worked with such musical luminaries as Lauryn Hill — to form Rat Habitat, a musical collaboration. Two years later, she released an album titled “The Girl with the Green Shoes.”
Isaac “Ike” Suggs Jr., chairman of the Jazz Vespers Committee at Emmanuel Baptist, expressed excitement at having Charles lead off the jazz ministry’s seventh season. Among the artists who have been featured in recent years are such legends as Barry Harris and Jimmy Heath, mainstays like Antonio Hart, Wycliffe Gordon and Debbie Carter and young turks such as Jazzmeia Horn, Elan Trotman and Isaiah Johnson as well as a host of other artists of the jazz smorgasboard.
Emmanuel Baptist Church Jazz Vespers, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018 3 pm- 5 pm. 279 Lafayette Avenue, Clinton Hill (718) 622–1107.