Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a vocalist and composer based out of New York City. Sarah’s musical stylings are unique and the intricacies to her art focus on modernizing classics and composing distinctive originals. Currently, Sarah is a member of two performance/recording projects including Manner Effect and The Enoch Smith Jr. Trio. She is also the bandleader for her own group, the S.E.Charles Quartet, performing and recording her own compositions/arrangements. With these groups as well as others, Sarah has performed at numerous venues throughout New York City including The Apollo Theatre with Geri Allen, Blue Note NYC, The Iridium, Smalls Jazz Club, Zinc Bar NYC, and New York Couture Fashion Week. Performances outside of the city have taken her to such venues as the International Bern Jazz Festival in Switzerland playing opposite Jack DeJohnette, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC as a selected member of the 2009 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Composers Residency. Gillette Stadium, and The Northampton Center for the Arts.
Sarah began her career in her hometown of Springfield, MA, studying and playing throughout the New England area. Throughout her elementary and high school years, Sarah drew knowledge and inspiration from acclaimed musicians at The Community Music School of Springfield and from workshops which have included Dr. Billy Taylor’s Jazz in July program at UMASS, Amherst and The Vermont Jazz Center’s Summer Workshop. She describes her early musical experiences as having “…rooted [her] into a grounded artistic space that would serve to inform the remainder of her musical development in the most healthy, curious, creative, and responsible way [she] could have ever imagined”.
Subsequent to these earlier experiences, Sarah moved to New York City where she attended and graduated with a BFA from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and a BA from Eugene Lang College. Since beginning her journey as a jazz musician, she has had the pleasure of studying and working with musicians such as Jimmy Owens, Geri Allen, Dr. Billy Taylor, Sheila Jordan, Cecil Bridgewater, Reggie Workman, George Cables, Junior Mance, Richard Harper, Janet Lawson, and Carmen Lundy. All of these individuals in addition to numerous other masters have significantly enhanced Sarah’s growth and influenced the path that she is currently following.
Following the 2012 release of her Quartet’s debut recording, ”Red”, Sarah’s music has continued to evolve and become wide ranging, touching on everything from uniquely crafted originals, to contemporary arrangements of jazz standards and re-workings of Haitian folklore music. Her creative energy pours out of each arrangement and original composition with a sense of warmth, passion, honesty, and a unique voice that acts as the tie that binds between each song in her varied repertoire. This energy creates an environment of sound rich with jazz, soul, folklore, drones, modal homes, engaging harmony, and rhythmic variation.
The S.E.Charles Quartet, composed of Sarah, Jesse Elder (piano), Burniss Earl Travis II (bass), and John Davis (drums), has been together for three years working toward the sound that they have discovered today: one rooted in a musically intuitive nature and strong personal connections. When reflecting upon the formation of her band, Sarah describes it as being “…the perfect fit. We are four distinct individuals with extremely different musical offerings to present. This is either a recipe for a train wreck or a masterpiece and in our case, I definitely feel that we have been able to flourish, creating beautiful art through and with the help of our differences”. The S.E.Charles Quartet’s debut EP, “Red”, to be released September 4, 2012, is the culmination of two years of honing the intricate aesthetics of this group. Sarah states, “this project speaks to my life, my passions, my love, my sadness, my strength, my weakness, my curiosity, and my smiles. All of these elements have gone into creating this recording and I can honestly say that it will be the first project I’ve released that is completely and utterly me. But the most interesting thing that we’ve all come to realize along the way is that this recording is also completely and utterly us: Sarah, Jesse, Burniss and John…the S.E.Charles Quartet.” More originality is to come with the debut of the Quartet’s sophomore project to be released in 2014.