“Gullah” comes from West African language and means “a people blessed by God.” “Ranky Tanky” translates loosely as “Work It,” or “Get Funky!” In this spirit, this Charleston, South Carolina-based quintet performs timeless music of Gullah culture born in the southeastern Sea Island region of the United States. From playful game songs to ecstatic shouts, from heartbreaking spirituals to delicate lullabies, the musical roots of Charleston are “rank” and fertile ground from which these contemporary artists are grateful to have grown.
South Carolina natives Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton, Charlton Singleton, and Clay Ross first came together in 1998, fresh out of University, to form a seminal Charleston jazz quartet. Now, united by years apart and a deeper understanding of home, these accomplished artists have come together again, joined by one of the low-country’s most celebrated vocalists Quiana Parler, to revive a “Heartland of American Music” born in their own backyards.
Quentin E. Baxter (drums) is a Grammy-nominated musician/producer currently on tour with Freddy Cole and Rene Marie. A prominent figure in the jazz community of his native Charleston, he is the Co-Principal of Charleston Jazz Initiative, a founding board member of Jazz artists of Charleston, and an Adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at the College of Charleston.
Kevin Hamilton (bass) is a celebrated artist in Charleston’s vibrant jazz scene. He has performed internationally with diverse ensembles such as The Charleston Jazz Orchestra, Houston Person, Gregory Hines, and Rene Marie. Kevin Hamilton joined the U.S. Dept. of State’s OneBeat program in 2012 and holds a degree in music theory and composition from the College of Charleston.
Quiana Parler (vocals) has one of the most sought after voices in the South Carolina Low-Country and has graced some of the most prestigious stages in the nation. Through a top placement on the hit TV show “American Idol,” she was discovered by Clay Aiken, with whom she toured nationally for seven years. Quiana has performed with Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, and Miranda Lambert, worked with producers David Foster, Adam Anders, Phil Ramone and Walter Afanasieff and appeared on national television shows The View, Good Morning America, and Jimmy Kimmel Live among others. Currently based in Charleston, SC she performs locally and nationally with her 10-piece party band, “Quiana Parler & Shiny Disco Ball Band.”
Clay Ross (guitar, vocals) has established himself as an in-demand sideman and innovative bandleader on the international music scene, winning multiple grants through the U.S. State Department and touring worldwide as a Cultural Ambassador. Now signed to the Motema Music label, he currently tours worldwide, leading his NYC based band Matuto. “Mr. Ross is a very deft guitarist with a rich vocabulary of folk, blues, and jazz at his disposal…” – Wall Street Journal
Charlton Singleton (trumpet, vocals) is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra; a 20-piece jazz ensemble of some of the finest professional musicians in the Southeast and the resident big band in Charleston, SC. He has toured across Europe and throughout the United States and has also shared the stage with and/or worked with some of most talented entertainers in the world. Outside of music and entertainment, he is a devoted husband and proud father of two.