Quentin E. Baxter and Charlton Singleton mark nearly 30 years of musical creation with joint albums ‘Art Moves Jazz’ and ‘Crossroads’, slated for release August 12


Charlton Singleton’s “Crossroads” was released in tandem with Quentin E. Baxter’s “Art Moves Jazz.”

Within two hours [of meeting]we determined that we were brothers.

Quentin E. Baxter and Charlton Singleton, friends, band members and other members of Gullah’s cultural community, further enrich their relationship with the tandem release of their albums on August 12 – Baxter’s ‘Art Moves Jazz’ and ‘Crossroads’ by Singleton – on Baxter’s own BME/Baxter Music Enterprises. Two-fifths of Grammy-winning music ensemble Gullah Ranky Tanky, drummer Baxter and trumpeter Singleton also each play prominent supporting roles on the other’s record, with Baxter serving as producer for both.

Friends for nearly 30 years, Baxter and Singleton’s musical collaboration began on the jazz scene in their native Charleston, South Carolina (first as a duo, then as the popular local quartet Gradual Lean). They also found common ground in South Carolina’s Gullah culture, in which they both have roots. Although this was the direction in which they ultimately found success in Ranky Tanky, they never lost touch with the spark of jazz that had brought them together.

“His playing reminded me of church,” Singleton (music and choir director at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Charleston) says of the drummer admiringly. The admiration is mutual: “Musically, Charlton is so reliable,” says Baxter.

The albums highlight their exceptional abilities (separately and together). On “Art Moves Jazz,” Baxter’s debut album, the drummer expands his exploration of traditional Gullah music, perceptively imprinting jazz standards like Jimmy Heath’s “For Minors Only” and Thelonious’ “In Walked Bud.” Monk with his rhythms. Singleton’s “Crossroads” (his fifth album) leans more towards bebop-based jazz, though it features eight artful original compositions ranging from the propulsive swing “On the Avenue” to the nostalgic ballad “Nett and Root.”

In each case, however, the leader finds a sympathetic partner in his associate. Whether it’s Baxter underscoring Singleton’s music with his sure beat, or Singleton seasoning Baxter’s folk-dancing milieu with his piquant tone, both draw deep from the same cultural sources of jazz, gospel and of Gullah traditions, extensions of the black heritage of the southern United States. .

Or, as Baxter puts it more concisely, “That thing we played was swinging!”

Charlton Singleton was born on January 7, 1971. Quentin E. Baxter was born on April 28, 1971. Both were born in Charleston, South Carolina; both showed an early aptitude for music; and both had deep family ties to the region’s Gullah community – an African-American enclave that forged a distinct culture from their African traditions and shared experience of slavery.

Despite these coincidences, however, trumpeter Singleton and drummer Baxter did not know each other until the mid-1990s, when they (along with bassist Kevin Hamilton, another longtime friend and colleague) met at the record store. of Charleston where Singleton worked. Later that evening, he and Baxter got to know each other and were amazed at how much they had in common. “Within two hours,” Singleton recalled, “we determined that we were brothers.”

Soon they were also roommates, not to mention collaborators. Baxter and Singleton, along with Hamilton and guitarist Clay Ross, formed the jazz quartet Gradual Lean, which quickly became regarded as the kingpin of the Charleston jazz scene. However, Gradual Lean disbanded at the turn of the 21st century when its members turned to other pursuits. Baxter toured with luminaries such as Rene Marie, Monty Alexander and Freddy Cole, also honing his producing skills; Singleton became an educator and continued to develop the local jazz scene as the founder and director of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra.

In 2016, however, the duo, along with fellow Gradual members Lean and singer Quiana Parler, reinvented themselves as Ranky Tanky, a jazz-and-soul-infused combo whose mix was Gullah musical tradition that Baxter , Hamilton and Singleton had known since birth. They achieved considerable success (and No. 1 on the Billboard jazz charts) with their 2017 self-titled album. Then they outdid themselves with the 2019 follow-up, Good Time, winning a Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album.

Throughout, both men have cultivated accomplished solo careers. Having become a beacon of Charleston jazz, Singleton also recorded four albums under his own name. Although he hasn’t released any records himself, Baxter has co-directed and produced three with poet and electronic musician Marcus Amaker. Their work together on Baxter’s “Art Moves Jazz” and Singleton’s “Crossroads” reveals significant new depths in each individual and in the creative relationship they have nurtured over three decades.

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