“The cross-rhythms and polyrhythms he coaxed from this down-home instrument were astonishing.” Joe Hannah, composer and piano
Who HE is
Newman Taylor Baker AKA WashboardXT
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 has always been fascinated by the wide dynamic and emotional range of the drum. He has known of its abilities since playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” on his record player at three years old. It has been his mission since then to show that drums have beauty, intensity, sensitivity, power, and emotion at all dynamic levels. Touch is central to his musical expression. On the washboard, Newman conjures a variety of sounds and textures in the way he touches the instrument…the angle of the shells when they make contact, the weight of his arm when he touches it, and the number of fingers he uses. The same principle of touch applies when he use sticks on the drum.