This has been a tough week for me. I have been in a two-week battle with a pesky virus that continues to linger and makes life uncomfortable. In spite of all the normal problems associated with sickness I am still able to write. I am able to keep my schedule and present a post as always. One factor that helps me is familiarity with the musician, or group of musicians to be featured. This week brought me to a vocal group I have admired for many years. Also, I spent more than a few weeks looking at my editorial calendar, eagerly anticipating this week and post. Now, the time has come to feature Grammy award winning jazz and gospel music vocal group, Take 6.
Take 6 is an American a cappella gospel music sextet formed in 1980 on the campus of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. In 1980, Claude McKnight (older brother of R&B musician Brian McKnight) formed an a cappella quartet, The Gentlemen’s Estates Quartet, at Oakwood College (now Oakwood University), where he was a freshman. He auditioned fellow students for the hobby group. The Gentlemen were rehearsing in a campus bathroom, getting ready for a performance, when Mark Kibble heard them singing. He joined the harmonizing, adding a fifth part, and ended up singing with them onstage that very night. Mark later invited Mervyn Warren to join the group. The group performed under the moniker Alliance.
As I read about the early formation of Take 6, I was reminded of some of the issues of musical groups that are formed in high school and college years. It is difficult to make a band work in those years because most people of that age are moving on with their lives. Many students graduate high school and attend college miles from home. Not to mention when a student graduates from college, there may be opportunities that open in other cities and then they move. I remember I met a production partner in college, and a few years later we worked together on several musical projects. In time he moved away for better opportunities and I made my way to the publishing industry. Something similar happened with the group of young men from Oakwood College. In 1985, the lower half of the group (bass, baritone, and second tenor) left upon graduating. At that time, Alvin Chea, Cedric Dent, and David Thomas joined.
The group was signed to Warner Brothers in 1987, and quickly changed its name to Take 6 after a name search revealed Alliance was in use. Their eponymous debut album, released in 1988, won them two Grammy Awards and Take 6 was on their way to the top. Interestingly, Take 6 for the most part have experienced few personnel changes since initial success. In 1991, after the release of their second album, So Much 2 Say, Mervyn Warren left the group to pursue a career as a producer. Joey Kibble, Mark’s younger brother, was invited to round out the vocal lineup. Baritone Cedric Dent left the group in 2011 and was replaced by Khristian Dentley. Perhaps, because the group is primarily considered a gospel ensemble, fame and success has not had the negative effect some secular musical acts experience. Overall they have enjoyed 27 years working and performing together.
The thing I appreciate the most about Take 6, is that they are unique. When we listen to musicians, the natural tendency among all of us is to compare them to someone else. I try to veer from such comparisons in the Weekly Music Commentary, and also in other conversations. Take 6 just might be beyond comparison. Of course there are several groups that sing a capella. However, I don’t know too many to sing the style of music like Take 6. Yes, Take 6 seems to be in a category all their own. Still, the group has been noticed and sought out by some of the larger names in the music industry. The group has recorded or appeared with a number of luminaries, including Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, and Stevie Wonder, to name a few. They recorded for the soundtracks of Dick Tracy, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Boyz n the Hood, and the theme song to the TV series Martin. They earned performances on Saturday Night Live, the Oscars, and the Grammys, and have had the honor of performing for four U.S. sitting Presidents, including the Democratic National Convention. Most recently, TAKE 6 had the honor of being the first American vocal group to perform in Cuba since diplomatic relations were restored. One of the Public Diplomacy officers wrote after the concert, “The group elicited a response I’ve yet to see many groups here do, and in some form helped to advance U.S. diplomacy and interests in ways that our formal process could not.”
Are you ready for new music from Take 6? “When Angels Cry,” the first single from multi-award winning jazz, pop and R&B group TAKE 6’s highly-anticipated album Believe, is now available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon and streaming on Spotify. The new album will be available worldwide on March 25, 2016 via SoNo Recording Group. Take 6 will delight music lovers with Believe a contemporary record filled with exciting collaborations and new material with every hallmark of the classic Take 6 sound. Motown Legend Stevie Wonder recently met up with the guys in Nashville to contribute his exquisite harmonica playing to the song “You Know You Are In Love.” Get ready for more of the same from this new project.
Take 6 has the musical ability to provide great albums of music. Heralded by Quincy Jones as the “baddest vocal cats on the planet!”, Take 6, is the quintessential a cappella group and the model for vocal genius. They have redefined the standards for vocal music. There is not too much more that can be said to describe them. I was very excited to hear about the new music several months ago, and now we are just a few weeks away from the release of Believe. When speaking about this new music from Take 6, I’m reminded of a director of films who may film several “takes” or chances before he gets the one that is perfect. Although, each time Take 6 delivers music, it tends to be something special. The question for all of us is this: Are you ready for another “take”?