For a jazz musician, Quentin Baxter could not have been born at a better time or in a better place. All the styles of this great American art form we enjoy today had made their marks, putting jazz on the way to becoming American classical music, a journey that would take only 25 years more. By the summer of 1970 when he touched down in Charleston, South Carolina, the first 75 years of jazz saw blues, ragtime, swing, bop, free jazz and fusion become the pulse and face of American culture.
The coastal city of Charleston was the cradle of the North American slave trade in Africans in the southeastern United Statesjackphoto2 and as a result of their interaction with Europeans, who they outnumbered for more than 200 of the Lowcountry’s 335 years, the culture of the place is a kind of African Christian one, not quite like any other place in the world. They have come to be known as Gullahs, an American people with West African roots, most closely identified with Sierra Leone.
On Aug. 28 of 1971, in walked Baxter, destined at birth, it seems, to be a percussionist. Baxter comes from a family of drummers. Both his mother and father played drums in church, as well as his three brothers. “I’ve been playing percussion instruments in church for as long as I can remember,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I don’t remember not playing some type of percussion instrument!”
Baxter was educated in public schools of Charleston County and is a graduate of North Charleston High School. While in his teens, Baxter was regarded as one of the most “in demand” and respected musicians in gospel as he was first-call for numerous regional concerts and served as minister of music in his home church, drummer for Christians United for Christ Community Choir and youth musician for Gospel Music Workshop of America.