Writer John Szwed is the author of the new biography, So What: The Life of Miles Davis about the influential jazz trumpeter. Szwed is the John M. Musser Professor of Anthropology, African American Studies, Music and American Studies at Yale University. He is also the author of the biography Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra, about another innovative musician.
We feature three members of the quintet Ranky Tanky: guitarist and singer CLAY ROSS, singer QUIANA PARLER, and trumpeter and singer CHARLTON SINGLETON. The group hails from South Carolina and they play the music of/inspired by the Gullah culture, found in the low country regions of South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullah people were descendants of slaves from West Africa. Three members of the band are Gullah. Ranky Tanky's songs are a mix of spirituals, dance music and children's rhymes. Their debut CD titled Ranky Tanky has been in the top 10 of Itunes jazz albums.
The legendary alto sax player began playing saxophone at the age of 15 in native New York City. Schooled in bebop at the start of his career, McLean names Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker as influences. He's played with jazz greats pianist Bud Powell, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. He continues to play and record today. He also teaches music at the University of Hartford.