Newman Taylor Baker
The American drummer is a one-man percussion orchestra.” — Max Roach
After a long and noted career as an internationally esteemed jazz drummer interpreting drum parts for composers such as Henry Threadgill, Diedre Murray, Leroy Jenkins, McCoy Tyner, Billy Harper, Sam Rivers, and Matthew Shipp, and leading his own composition project “Singin’ Drums,” Newman Taylor Baker encountered the washboard in 2010 and it changed his life. The connection between his paternal grandfather, Rev. Dr. T. Nelson Baker, the only former enslaved student to achieve a Bachelor of Divinity (1893) and PhD in Philosophy (1903) from Yale University and the washboard, popular during the lifetime of Rev. Dr. Baker, has fueled Newman’s current creative path. Now Newman is a passion-driven washboarder directing WashboardXT, his concept of 21st-century music for the acoustic and electronic washboard.
Newman extends the washboard language by using expended shotgun shells (a tradition of Southeastern U.S.) on four fingers of each hand, customizing the physical instrument and adding microphones, effects pedals, and amplifiers. This produces a unique sound with more presence, variety, and responsiveness than the traditional thimbles, spoons, or knife handles. Approaching the washboard as a hand drum, touch is central to Newman’s performance. He creates a great variety in texture, color, and articulation through the angle of the shells where they make contact, the weight of the arm when contact is made and the number of fingers is used. He found that his sound on the washboard blends with numerous combinations of instruments, and is applicable to a variety of musical genres and styles including but not limited to Jazz (swing, bebop, post-bop, hard bop, avant-garde, free jazz, fusion), Blues (acoustic and electric), World (Brazilian, Colombian, Cuban, Jamaican), Roots, Classical (string orchestra, brass ensembles, woodwind ensembles), Electronic, New Music and Modern Dance.
Newman is a master percussionist known for his drum set work internationally. Newman is active with the Matthew Shipp Trio, Vienna Carroll, Jemeel Moondoc, Andrew Lamb, the Deborah Brown Quartet and Sylwester Ostrowski with the NFM Leopoldinum Project, and The Lance Hayward Singers. Baker has toured the world with Billy Harper, Billy Bang, Sam Rivers, Henry Threadgill, Henry Grimes, Abdullah Ibrahim, Craig Harris, and Monnette Sudler.