Gradual Lean plays a mean set at Mistral

JAC's Upstars at Mistral is on a roll

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5f26/1243478017-graduallean.mistral_tbl_39_resized.jpg I made it back upstairs at Mistral again on Tuesday evening for gig number five (of 13) at the Jazz Artists of Charleston’s “Upstairs at Mistral” series. It’s a cozy scene in the top room of Mistral Restaurant (99 S. Market Street). The JAC’s Leah Suárez, Erin Fornadel, and Jack McCray were on hand, alongside several colleagues and more than a few handfuls of local jazz musicians and fans. Once again, the place was packed.

Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. event featured longtime Charleston jazz trio Gradual Lean a sort of reunion. Electric guitarist Lee Barbour relocated to N.Y.C. over a year ago, so he rarely gets to jam with his numerous Charleston jazz buddies. He joined bassist Kevin Hamilton and drummer Quentin Baxter for a cool and funky set of instrumental improv and interpretation. These guys play pretty aggressively, twisting bits of bebop, samba, and prog-rock (i.e. odd time signatures and a dose of nasty dissonance) into something more contemporary. All three were at the top of their musical game, and seemed delighted to stretch out a bit and have a laugh.

As a drummer myself, I especially enjoyed some of Baxter’s fluid and rascally drum solos — I even recorded one (with his snares turned off). Check it out here:

Quentin Baxter with Gradual Lean from Charleston City Paper on Vimeo.


Apologies for the shaky quality … it’s difficult to hold the camera still while digging such groovy drumstuff.

Presented by the Jazz Artists of Charleston (JAC), this is an independently-produced jazz series. Concert entrance is at 180 Meeting Street.

(photo by T. Ballard Lesemann)

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