Charles, Denis (also Dennis)

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Charles, Denis (also Dennis)

Charles, Denis (also Dennis), jazz drummer, percussionist; b. St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Dec. 4, 1933; d. N.Y., March 26, 1998. His father played congas, guitar, and banjo. He played congas as child; the family moved to N.Y. in 1945 and he took up drumming (1954), teaching himself by listening to records by Art Blakey and Roy Haynes. Charles played at West Indian parties and dances with calypso and mambo bands in Harlem in late 1950s. He met Cecil Taylor at Connie’s Inn and became one of the few drummers to play and record (1955–61) with him. He also recorded with Steve Lacy (1957, 1963–64, 1979, 1982). He was in the Jack Gelber play The Connection. Charles played with Gil Evans (1959), Jimmy Giuffre, Wilbur Ware, Archie Shepp (1967), and Don Cherry; he recorded West Indian folk tunes with his brother Frank and Sonny Rollins. He worked with Lacy again in the 1970s, and with Billy Bang (1981–82) and Lacy in the 1980s. He made his first recording as a leader of his own group in 1989. He died of a heart attack after returning from a European tour.


Queen Mary (1989). C. Taylor: Jazz Advance (1955); Looking Ahead! (1958); Cell Walk for Celeste (1961). S. Lacy: Soprano Sax (1957). G. Evans: Great Jazz Standards (1959).

—Lewis Porter

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Charles, Denis (also Dennis)

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