Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts
Press Release

Ranky Tanky brings celebration of Gullah music, culture to the Wilson Center

Charleston-Based Jazz Quintet to Perform May 17, Lead Arts Outreach in Local Schools

By - Apr 18th, 2019 06:58 pm
Ranky Tanky. Photo by Reese Moore.

Ranky Tanky. Photo by Reese Moore.

Brookfield, WI (April 18, 2019) From playful game songs to ecstatic shouts, from heartbreaking spirituals to delicate lullabies, the Charleston-based quintet Ranky Tanky will perform the timeless music of Gullah culture for audiences at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts (Wilson Center) Friday, May 17, 2019, at 8:00 p.m.

Ranky Tanky released their eponymous debut on October 20, 2017. By December 2017, the group had been profiled on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and their album soared to #1 on Billboard, iTunes, and Amazon jazz charts. Mixing low country traditions with large doses of jazz, gospel, funk, and R&B, tickets for this soulful performance are $44-$60 (prices subject to increase based on demand) and may be purchased online at www.wilson-center.com, via phone at 262-781-9520, or in person at the Wilson Center Box Office at 19805 W. Capitol Drive in Brookfield’s Mitchell Park. Parking at the Wilson Center is free.

“Gullah” comes from West African language and means “a people blessed by God.” “Ranky Tanky” translates loosely as “Work It” or “Get Funky.” Grammy-nominated Quentin Baxter (drums, percussion), Kevin Hamilton (bass), Artistic Director and Conductor of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra Charlton Singleton (trumpet, vocals), and Clay Ross (guitar, vocals) 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 South Carolina natives have come together again, joined by one of the low country’s most celebrated vocalists and American Idol competitor 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.”

Their debut album Ranky Tanky features 13 arrangements of Gullah folk songs, with lyrics and melodies ranging from traditional spirituals to children’s rhymes to dance music. In a 2017 interview with NPR, Ross credited 20th century American gospel and folk singer Bessie Jones as laying much of the groundwork for the band due to her extensive recording and documentation of the songs and rhymes later used in Ranky Tanky.

On March 15, 2019, Ranky Tanky debuted the stirring new single “Freedom” with a performance on NBC’s TODAY. The song leads the group’s upcoming sophomore album, Good Time, set for release in fall of 2019. “The idea of ‘Freedom’ is at the heart of the American identity, and particularly for the Gullah people who are descendants of enslaved African-Americans,” states the band as a collective. “Freedom is a universal anthem. This song holds a universal truth, yet undoubtedly represents something different to every individual that hears it.”

In addition to the public Wilson Center concert, Ranky Tanky will be giving two back-to-back performances for students at Milwaukee charter school Capitol West Academy on the morning of May 17. As part of the Wilson Center’s ArtsReach program, both performances will celebrate a weeklong visual arts residency taking place at the school in partnership with the Wilson Center and Ghanaian painter Francis Annan Affotey. Throughout the week, approximately 15 students will work with Affotey to create artwork inspired by Gullah music, with the project to be unveiled at the performance. For more information on the arts education outreach sessions/performances, contact education@wilson-center.com or 262-373-5037.

Ranky Tanky is presented as part of the Wilson Center’s 2018/2019 Performing Arts Series, which is made possible by Enterforce, Godfrey & Kahn S.C., and Krause Funeral Homes & Cremation Services. Arts education outreach with Cynthia Sayer is made possible by Wilson Center Residency Sponsor Herzfeld Foundation, and this project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Wilson Center is grateful for the support of Show Media Partner 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.

ABOUT THE SHARON LYNNE WILSON CENTER FOR THE ARTS
As a multidisciplinary nonprofit cultural arts facility with a 17-year history of excellence, it is the mission of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts to serve as a catalyst for lifelong discovery and exploration of the arts. Situated in Brookfield’s beautiful Mitchell Park, the Wilson Center is recognized as a cultural anchor in the Greater Milwaukee community and focuses on three main disciplines: performing arts, arts education, and visual arts. Since opening in 2002, the Wilson Center has continued to celebrate its five core values of excellence, innovation, passion, stewardship and collaboration through a diverse array of premier performances, educational programs, classes, festivals and special events. The Wilson Center annually welcomes more than 45,000 people, including more than 10,000 students every year—many of whom are being introduced to the arts for the first time. Through arts education programs such as Beyond the Classroom, ArtsReach, and Arts Camp: The Art of Nature, as well as year-round visual art classes and exhibitions, the Wilson Center promotes lifelong learning for children, teens, families, and adults. For more information, visit www.wilson-center.com.

ABOUT RANKY TANKY
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!” 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.” From playful game songs to ecstatic shouts, from heartbreaking spirituals to delicate lullabies, the musical roots of Charleston, South Carolina, are “rank” and fertile ground from which these contemporary artists are grateful to have grown. Ranky Tanky released their eponymous debut on October 20, 2017. By

December of that year, the group had been profiled on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and their album soared to the #1 position on the Billboard, iTunes, and Amazon Jazz Charts.

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 René Marie. Kevin Hamilton joined the U.S. Department 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 spent more than 20 years as the most sought-after vocalist in the low country. Known locally for years prior, she rose to national prominence after her success on the 2003 season of American Idol. From there, she toured and recorded alongside successful artists as diverse as Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Clay Aiken, Miranda Lambert, and David Foster. Beyond Idol, her performances have been featured on national broadcasts like The View, NBC’s TODAY, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tonight Show, The Tyra Banks Show, and Saturday Night Live, as well as the Academy of Country Music Awards and the American Music Awards. www.quianaparler.com

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. As a solo artist and founder of the NYC based band Matuto, Ross has released five albums on the Ropeadope and Motema Record Labels. As The Wall Street Journal said, “Mr. Ross is a very deft guitarist with a rich vocabulary of folk, blues, and jazz at his disposal…” www.clayross.com

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, South Carolina. He has toured across Europe and throughout the United States and has also shared the stage with and/or worked with some of the most talented entertainers in the world. Outside of music and entertainment, he is a devoted husband and proud father. www.charltonsingleton.com

QUENTIN E. BAXTER (DRUMS) is a Grammy-nominated musician/producer currently on tour with Freddy Cole and René 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. www.baxtermusic.com

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