Ranky Tanky released their eponymous debut on Oct. 20th, 2017. By December of that year, the group had been been profiled on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and their album soared to the #1 position on the Billboard, I-Tunes, and Amazon Jazz Charts.
“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, SC 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, SC 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.
The soulful songs of the Gullah culture are brought to life by this band of native South Carolinians who mix the low country traditions with large doses of jazz, gospel, funk, and R&B. Fresh out of college, trumpeter Charlton Singleton, guitarist Clay Ross, bassist Kevin Hamilton, and drummer Quentin Baxter originally worked together as an in-demand jazz quartet on the Charleston scene in the late 1990s before splitting off to each make their way as freelance musicians, working with names like Houston Person, Freddy Cole, Cyro Baptista, and René Marie. Gaining years of valuable experience while developing a deeper appreciation for the South Carolina Gullah tradition they came from, the band reformed with the dynamic vocalist Quiana Parler to celebrate the bone-deep mix of spirituals and gutbucket blues that mark the low country mainland and Sea Islands – music made by a self-contained culture of descendants of enslaved Africans that introduced such indelible parts of American songbook as „Kum Bah Yah“ and „Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore.“ The word „Gullah“ comes from West Africa and means „a people blessed by God,“ and „Ranky Tanky“ translates loosely as „Work It,“ or „Get Funky!“
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 (Vocalist)
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 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.
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.
„RT was a huge success!“ – Hans-Olav Solli / Molde Jazz Festival
„Ranky Tanky were really excellent!!!“ – Michal Schmidt / Folk Holidays
„This show was AMAZING – wooww – absolutely fantastic music, great people, extremly nice friendly persons“ – Jo Aichinger / Glatt & Verkehrt
„Ranky Tanky, from Charleston, S.C., sings old Gullah songs — some of them sly moral lessons — in arrangements that connect their beat to a New Orleans lilt.“ – New York Times 1/10/17
„The biggest surprise of the evening, though, came not from Asia nor Africa. It came from South Carolina, where a quintet called Ranky Tanky has updated the Gullah tradition of the Georgia/Carolina sea islands with gospel vocals, jazz trumpet solos and an R&B rhythm section. Isolated on those islands, slaves developed their own language and music that remained more African than anything on the mainland, creating a culture like no other.
Ranky Tanky, which takes its name for the Gullah phrase for “work it” or “get down,” transforms the hymns, party anthems and children’s songs of the islands into infectiously rocking numbers. Quiana Parler is a big-voiced, joyful singer; Charlton Singleton is a marvelous trumpeter, and Clay Ross stitches everything together with his introductions and unusual rhythm-guitar solos.
Like the best of globalFEST, Ranky Tanky proved that exotic music can be both unfamiliar enough to be surprising, and yet familiar enough to provoke swinging hips and nodding heads. When it works, it’s the best of both worlds.“ – Geoffrey Himes – 10.01.2017 Paste Magazine on Globalfest