Drummer and producer Quentin Baxter has been a fixture in the Charleston jazz scene since the '90s. A Charlestonian born and raised, Baxter's passion for both the music and the local cultural heritage has had an undeniable impact on Charleston's current music scene. He continues that legacy with his concert series, "Quentin E. Baxter Presents..." And tonight at the Turtle Point Clubhouse on Kiawah Island at 7:30 p.m., Quentin E. Baxter presents the Annie Sellick Quartet.
The group is comprised of Baxter on drums, Kevin Bales on piano, Billy Thornton on bass, and jazz vocalist Annie Sellick.
This won't be the first time that Sellick and Baxter share the stage. She has come to town before, performing at The Mezz back when that was still Baxter's stomping grounds. They may have even performed together the first night they met — years ago at Churchill Grounds in Atlanta — but Baxter's memory fails him. Probably due to Sellick's personable nature. "You never really remember the first time you meet her, because you always feel like you've known her a long time," says Baxter.
Sellick is nationally acclaimed for her stunning vocal instincts and playful stage presence. She draws comparisons to the titans of jazz like Ella Fitzgerald and Anita O'Day. But as Baxter puts it, "She's so influenced by a lot of the greats, but she's all Annie."
A native of Nashville, growing up, Sellick had no intention of pursuing a career in show business. That is, until an impromptu performance at a dive bar. She sat in with guitarist Roland Gresham and performed one of the only standards she knew, "Fever." The crowd's uproarious response compelled the house band to hire her right there on the spot.
She's now one of the biggest names in jazz in Nashville and resident vocalist with the Nashville Jazz Orchestra. But to Baxter, she's much more than that. "She's definitely a kindred soul of mine," he says. "When we talk, we catch up, but we always talk like we just talked yesterday."
And surely it's the same way when they get together and play. "She's so easy to work with," says Baxter. "She's so cool. So relaxed. And her song choices and her delivery [reflect] that. She picks great tunes that fit her style, that fit her voice. And she's very versatile. She can definitely sing many different styles. She swings real hard, man. Girl can go."
Baxter admires Sellick's fearlessness. She's tackled virtually every facet of jazz, performing tunes from the Great American Songbook, Bossa Nova numbers in Portuguese, Hot Club barnburners, and everything in between. She was even willing to be a vocalist in a Grateful Dead cover band. "That's the beauty of an artist," says Baxter. "She's a woman who's not afraid to reinvent herself, based on the same skillset. So she's not starting all over, but she's doing something totally different with it. She's totally open to do that. And that's why I love playing with her."
Sellick is a perfect example of the types of musicians Baxter is bringing in to perform in his "Quentin E. Baxter Presents..." series. "It's so important to have someone like her," he says. "I'm trying to bring in names who are way better than their earmark at this point and time in their career, because it's just gotta catch up with them. And I like showing that talent off here."
Sponsored by the Town of Kiawah Island Cultural Events Fund, Baxter has produced three shows a season over the past two seasons at the Turtle Point Clubhouse and hopes to continue to do so. "They're doing a great job out there getting the arts and representing the arts and supporting the arts," says Baxter. "The main thing about this and what's special about this is it's not exclusively for people on Kiawah. I'm reaching out to Charlestonians and non-Kiawah residents and people traveling through. So it's not an exclusive thing. And it's really becoming a destination."
Baxter has a similar partnership with the College of Charleston, producing three shows a season at the Recital Hall. "I love presenting and producing the music at the level that is just beyond expectations," says Baxter with a smile. "I just love music and I think it should be presented the best way possible."