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Take 6

Take 6

Gospel/jazz vocal group

For the Record

Enchanting Sound Led to Record Deal

Incorporate R&B Sounds

Enduring Hits

Selected discography

Sources

Christian singing group Take 6 burst onto the music scene in 1988 with their critically acclaimed, platinum-selling debut album Take 6. The a cappella sextet, with voices emulating the sounds and rhythms of musical instruments, has since awed both jazz and gospel listeners with immaculate harmonies and stir-ring vocal arrangements. Featuring original gospel songs by group members, in addition to jazzed-up renditions of traditional hymns, Take 6 boasts an up-lifting, sophisticated sound that recalls the music of spirituals, doo-wop groups, and classic jazz combos. Like their stylish clothes, the a cappella music of Take 6 is performed with stylealways in time, in tune, wrote Michael Handler in Down Beat It might be another reworking of a classic gospel tune, or an original, up-tempo number, but every song sounds fresh, clean, and full of joy.

Take 6 originated in 1980 at Oakwood College, a small Seventh-Day Adventist school in Huntsville, Alabama, and began as a gospel quartet named Alliance (later called Gentlemans Estate Quartet). Expanded into a sextet, the group held early rehearsals within the re-sounding walls of their college dormitory bathrooms, where they worked to develop their unique six-part gospel harmonies and arrangements. Each member

For the Record

Members include Alvin Vinnie Chea (born c.1968); Cedric Dent (born c. 1963); Joey Kibble (born 1971; joined group, 1991); Mark Kibble (born c. 1965); Claude V. McKnight III (born c. 1963); David Thomas (born c. 1967); Mervyn Warren (born c. 1965; left group, 1991). Education: All attended Oakwood College, Huntsville; Cedric Dent holds degrees from University of Michigan (B.M., Vocal Music Education, 1985), the University of Alabama (M.M., Music Theory/Arranging, 1987) and the University of Maryland (Ph.D., Music Theory, 1997).

Group formed in Huntsville, AL, as quartet Alliance (later called Gentlemens Estate Quartet), 1980; recording and performing act, 1988-; released album Take 6 on Reprise, 1988, followed by So Much 2 Say, 1990, He is Christmas, 1991, Join the Band, 1994, Brothers, 1996, So Cool, 1998, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, 1999, and Beautiful World, 2002.

Awards: Grammy Awards, Best Jazz Vocal, Duo or Group for Spread Love, and Best Soul Gospel, Duo, or Group, for Take 6, 1989, Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for So Much 2 Say and Best Jazz Vocal Performance for He is Christmas, 1991, Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for Join the Band, 1994, Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for Brothers, 1997; four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, 1989; named Jazz Vocal Group of the Year by Down Beat magazine, 1989-95.

Addresses: Record company Reprise Records, 1815 Division St., Nashville, TN 37203-2736; 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4696; 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019-9608.Website Take 6 Official Website: http://www.take6.com.

was an accomplished music instrumentalist before be-coming a vocalist, and most had jazz backgrounds. It just seemed natural to have extended jazz chords throughout the music, recalled original member Claude V. McKnight III to Leonard Pitts, Jr., in Musician. To make a cappella music really fresh and exciting, you really have to get into a lot of the intricate rhythms and things that characterize jazz.

Enchanting Sound Led to Record Deal

In 1987 Take 6 held an exclusive performance for gospel recording company executives, yet many refrained from attending, considering the groups sound too controversial. Fortunately, an uninvited representative of Warner Bros, showed up who was impressed with a tape hed received of the group. When I first played their tape, Jim Ed Norman told Ebony, I heard the most enchanting, wonderful sound in music coming from the human voice that I had heard in the longest time. Warner Bros, signed Take 6 to a recording con-tract, and their self-titled debut album was released the following year on the companys Reprise label. Al-though the group had originally hoped to sign with a gospel label, they later realized the evangelistic opportunity to reach wider audiences with their jazzed-up gospel music. We are purposely styling our music the way we do so that we can take our message of the gospel to people who dont always listen to Christian music, explained original group member Mervyn Warren to Ebony. We have a message that is appropriate for everybody.

Take 6 received wide critical acclaim upon its release, and went on to earn 1988 Grammy Awards in both jazz and gospel categories. The sextet also became the first-ever gospel group nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy Award. Take 6s broad appeal was further evident in the variety of other honors accumulated after their debut album: four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, an award from the television program Soul Train, and a first-place finish in jazz magazine Down Beats 1989 readers poll for Jazz Vocal Group of the Year, an award they received every year for the following six years. At their first-ever performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1989, Take 6 electrified the audience and was called back for a rare curtain call. Music industry giants were quick to enlist the groups talents. Take 6 was invited to perform with Stevie Wonder, an ardent fan, at New Yorks Radio City Music, and recorded with artists such as Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis, Stephanie Mills, and Smokey Robinson, in addition to maintaining a solid string of concert appearances in the United States and abroad.

In 1990, Take 6s second album, So Much 2 Say, was released to further acclaim. Take 6 combines the heartfelt devotion of the church with audacious wit, wrote reviewer Will Friedwald in the New York Times. In leavening their voices with passion, intelligence and musicianship, Take 6 has breathed new life into a musical genre dormant for generations. Robin Tolleson proclaimed in Down Beat Theres nobody to really compare Take Six to. They outsoul Manhattan Transfer in a minute and are far more adventurous than the Nylons. Theres never been any question about these guys abilities since they strutted on the scene, but here the soul is catching up and starting to go right along with the talent. Reviewing the groups 1990 Carnegie Hall performance, New York Times music critic Stephen Holden wrote: The Christian music group from Alabama has developed a vocal blend of such extraordinary precision and harmonic richness [that] one is left awestruck at the level of technical perfection.

Incorporate R&B Sounds

Warren left the group to pursue a career in music production in early 1991, and was replaced by Joey Kibble, brother of group member Mark Kibble. That same year, Take 6 released their first Christmas album, He is Christmas, which won them a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. Their next album, 1994s Join the Band, was a departure from their earlier style as the group attempted to reach a wider audience by incorporating contemporary R&B sounds into their music. The album, which went gold and won a Grammy Award in 1994 for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album, featured appearances by Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Queen Latifah. They continued their exploration into more commercial sounds on Brothers, released in 1996. Although that album also won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album, it didnt catch on with fans, and became one of the least successful of Take 6s albums.

After the disappointment of Brothers, Take 6 decided to return to their roots and concentrate on their vocal arrangements.So Cool, released in 1998, marked a return to a cappella, accompanied by subtle instrumentation on some tracks. David Thomas remarked on the Warner Bros, website, We realized this [a cappella] is what were best at, and this is where we have the most fun. Their success continued in 1999, when they released three albums: a live album, a second Christmas album (We Wish You a Merry Christmas), and a greatest hits album.

Enduring Hits

The group released Beautiful World in mid-2002. The entire album is made up of classic gospel, pop, and R&B hits. Cedric Dent, who earned a Ph.D. in Music Theory from the University of Maryland in 1997, explained the idea behind the album on the Take 6 website: We wanted to do nothing but songs that had been big and enduring hits, but that also had messages of hope and encouragement, whether spiritual or with that message clearly implied. The group also contributed to Quincy Joness album Back on the Block, were background vocalists on Stephanie Millss single Home, were song arrangers for the Winans album Heaven, co-wrote U-Turn for Joe Samples album Spellbound, sang Dont Shoot Me for film Do the Right Thing, and performed the theme song for television movie The Women of Brewster Place.

Although the music of Take 6 has a strong jazz following, their message, Handler notes, never strays from their common goal of spreading the good news through song. Devout Seventh-Day Adventists, the group is serious about their role as non-traditional Christian evangelists. We present the message in an attractive package, and hopefully the folks will leave the show humming a tune, McKnight told Handler. We let the Holy Spirit take it from there. In accordance with their strict religious beliefs, the group abstains from performing on Saturdays, in observance of the traditional Sabbath, unless specific contractual obligations require them to do so. Take 6 has been criticized by some of the more conservative elements of their Seventh-Day Adventist religion, yet are resolved in their mission. Weve accomplished what we set out to do, and thats to reach people in all walks of life, McKnight told Yanick Rice Lamb in the New York Times. It has never made sense to just sing in church or to people who supposedly already have the message. You take it out into the world and into the streets to the people who really need it. Group member Alvin Chea told Lamb that their music is a natural extension of their talents: Were just trying to share what makes us happy.

Selected discography

Take 6, Reprise, 1988.

So Much 2 Say, Reprise, 1990.

He is Christmas, Reprise, 1991.

Join the Band, Reprise, 1994.

Brothers, Reprise, 1996.

So Cool, Reprise, 1998.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Reprise, 1999.

Greatest Hits, Reprise, 1999.

Tonight: Live, Reprise, 1999.

Beautiful World, Reprise, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, August 13, 1994.

Christianity Today, July 14, 1989.

Down Beat, February 1990; March 1990; November 1990; December 1990, September 2001.

Ebony, March 1989.

Esquire, March 1989.

Essence, October 1990.

Musician, October 1988.

New York Times, August 26, 1988; January 23, 1989; May 24, 1990; May 27, 1990; October 14, 1990.

Stereo Review, January 1989.

Time, March 20, 1989.

Online

Take 6, Warner Bros., http://www.wbr.com/nashville/take6/ (September 20, 2002).

Take 6 Biography, RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/bio (September 20, 2002).

Take 6 Official Website, http://www.take6.com (September 20, 2002).

Michael E. Mueller

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Take 6

Take 6

Gospel/Jazz group

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Christian singing group Take 6 burst onto the music scene in 1988 with their critically acclaimed debut album Take 6. The a capella sextet, with voices emulating the sounds and rhythms of musical instruments, has since awed both jazz and gospel listeners with immaculate harmonies and stirring vocal arrangements. Featuring original gospel songs by group members, in addition to jazzed-up renditions of traditional hymns, Take 6 boasts an uplifting, sophisticated sound that recalls the music of spirituals, doo-wop groups, and classic jazz combos. Like their stylish clothes, the a capella music of Take 6 is performed with stylealways in time, in tune, wrote Michael Handler in Down Beat. It might be another reworking of a classic gospel tune, or an original, up-tempo number, but every song sounds fresh, clean, and full of joy.

Take 6 originated in 1980 at Oakwood College, a small Seventh-Day Adventist school in Huntsville, Alabama, and began as a gospel quartet named Alliance (later called Gentlemans Estate Quartet). Expanded into a sextet, the group held early rehearsals within the resounding

For the Record

Group formed in 1980 in Huntsville, AL, as quartet Alliance, later called Gentlemens Estate Quartet; current sextet includes Claude V. McKnight III , born c. 1963; Mark Kibble , born c. 1965; Mervyn Warren , born c. 1965; David Thomas , born c. 1967; Cedric Dent , born c. 1963; and Alvin Vinnie Chea , born c. 1968. Education: All attended Oakwood College, Huntsville. Religion: Seventh-Day Adventist.

Recording and performing act, 1988. Released album Take 6 on Reprise, 1988.

Awards: Grammy Awards for best jazz vocal, duo or group, for single Spread Love, and best soul gospel, Duo, or Group, for album Take 6, both 1989; and best contemporary soul gospel album, 1991, for So Much 2 Say; Grammy Award nomination for best new artist, 1989; four Gospel Music Dove Awards, 1989; named vocal group of the year by Down Beat magazine, 1989.

Addresses: Home Group members live in the Nashville, TN, area. Record companyReprise Records, 1815 Division St., Nashville, TN 37203-2736; 3300 Warner Blvd., Bur-bank, CA 91505-4696; 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019-9608.

walls of their college dormitory bathrooms, where they worked to develop their unique six-part gospel harmonies and arrangements. Each member was an accomplished music instrumentalist before becoming a vocalist, and most had jazz backgrounds. It just seemed natural to have extended jazz chords throughout the music, recalled original member Claude V. McKnight III to Leonard Pitts, Jr., in Musician. To make a capella music really fresh and exciting, you really have to get into a lot of the intricate rhythms and things that characterize jazz.

In 1987 Take 6 held an exclusive performance for gospel recording company executives, yet many refrained from attending, considering the groups sound too controversial. Fortunately, an uninvited representative of Warner Bros. showed up who was impressed with a tape hed received of the group. When I first played their tape, Jim Ed Norman told Ebony, I heard the most enchanting, wonderful sound in music coming from the human voice that I had heard in the longest time. Warner Bros. signed Take 6 to a recording contract, and their self-titled debut album was released the following year on the companys Reprise label. Although the group had originally hoped to sign with a gospel label, they later realized the evangelistic opportunity to reach wider audiences with their jazzed-up gospel music. We are purposely styling our music the way we do so that we can take our message of the gospel to people who dont always listen to Christian music, explained group member Mervyn Warren to Ebony. We have a message that is appropriate for everybody.

Take 6 received wide critical acclaim upon its release, and went on to earn 1988 Grammy Awards in both jazz and gospel categories, The sextet also became the first-ever gospel group nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy Award. Take 6s broad appeal was further evident in the variety of other honors accumulated after their debut album: four Gospel Music Dove Awards, an award from the television program Soul Train, and a first-place finish in jazz magazine Down Beats 1989 readers poll for Vocal Group of the Year. At their first-ever performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1989, Take 6 electrified the audience and was called back for a rare curtain call. Music industry giants were quick to enlist the groups talents. Take 6 was invited to perform with Stevie Wonder, an ardent fan, at New Yorks Radio City Music, and recorded with artists such as Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis, Stephanie Mills, and Smokey Robinson, in addition to maintaining a solid string of concert appearances in the United States and abroad.

In 1990, Take 6s second album, So Much 2 Say, was released to further acclaim. Take 6 combines the heartfelt devotion of the church with audacious wit, wrote reviewer Will Friedwald in the New York Times. In leavening their voices with passion, intelligence and musicianship, Take 6 has breathed new life into a musical genre dormant for generations. Robin Tolleson proclaimed in Down Beat: Theres nobody 2 really compare Take Six 2. They outsoul Manhattan Transfer in a minute and are far more adventurous than the Nylons. Theres never been any question about these guys abilities since they strutted on the scene, but here the soul is catching up and starting to go right along with the talent. Reviewing the groups 1990 Carnegie Hall performance, New York Times music critic Stephen Holden wrote: The Christian music group from Alabama has developed a vocal blend of such extraordinary precision and harmonic richness [that] one is left awestruck at the level of technical perfection.

Although the music of Take 6 has a strong jazz following, their message, Handler notes, never strays from their common goal of spreading the good news through song. Devout Seventh-Day Adventists, the group is serious about their role as non-traditional Christian evangelists. We present the message in an attractive package, and hopefully the folks will leave the show humming a tune, McKnight told Handler. We let the Holy Spirit take it from there. In accordance with their strict religious beliefs, the group abstains from performing on Saturdays, in observance of the traditional Sabbath, unless specific contractual obligations require them to do so. Take 6 has been criticized by some of the more conservative elements of their Seventh-Day Adventist religion, yet are resolved in their mission. Weve accomplished what we set out to do, and thats to reach people in all walks of life, McKnight told Yanick Rice Lamb in the New York Times. It has never made sense to just sing in church or to people who supposedly already have the message. You take it out into the world and into the streets to the people who really need it. Group member Alvin Chea told Lamb that their music is a natural extension of their talents: Were just trying to share what makes us happy.

Selected discography

Take 6 (includes Spread Love and Mary Dont You Weep), Reprise, 1988.

So Much 2 Say (includes So Much 2 Say and I L-O-V-E- U), Reprise, 1990.

Contributors to Quincy Joness album Back on the Block; background vocalists on Stephanie Millss single Home; song arrangers for the Winans album Heaven; co-wrote U-Turn for Joe Samples album Spellbound; sang Dont Shoot Me for film Do the Right Thing; performed theme song for television movie The Women of Brewster Place.

Sources

Christianity Today, July 14, 1989.

Down Beat, February 1990; March 1990; November 1990; December 1990.

Ebony, March 1989.

Esquire, March 1989.

Essence, October 1990.

Musician, October 1988.

New York Times, August 26, 1988; January 23, 1989; May 24, 1990; May 27, 1990; October 14, 1990.

Stereo Review, January 1989.

Time, March 20, 1989.

Michael E. Mueller

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Take 6

TAKE 6

Formed: 1985, Huntsville, Alabama

Members: Alvin Chea, bass (born San Francisco, California, 2 November 1967); Cedric Dent, baritone (born Detroit, Michigan, 24 September 1962); Joey Kibble, second tenor (born Buffalo, New York, 16 May 1971); Mark Kibble, first tenor (born Bronx, New York, 7 April 1964); Claude V. McKnight III, first tenor (born Brooklyn, New York, 2 October 1962); David Thomas, second tenor (born Brooklyn, New York, 23 October 1966). Former member: Mervyn E. Warren, second tenor (born 29 February 1964).

Genre: Jazz, Gospel, Doo-Wop

Best-selling album since 1990: Join the Band (1994)

Hit songs since 1990: "Spread Love," "Straighten Up and Fly Right"


Take 6 is an innovative and trend-setting male vocal group that has earned more Grammy Award nominations than any other gospel or soul vocal ensemble, and has racked up an unbroken string of gold- and platinum-selling albums since its debut in 1988. Although all its members are committed Christians and its songs all convey a religious message to some degree, the group's sound is as secular as it is spiritual, and its music is meant to be enjoyed by believers and nonbelievers alike.

Mark Kibble, a student at Oakwood College, a Seventh-day Adventist institution in Huntsville, Alabama, joined "The Gentlemen's Estate Quartet," a barbershop harmony group led by his childhood acquaintance, freshman Claude V. McKnight, upon hearing them rehearse in a dorm bathroom in 1980. Subsequently Kibble invited Mervyn E. Warren, whom he knew from high school, into the group, which performed its unaccompanied gospel repertoire under the name "Alliance." When the ensemble's second tenor, baritone, and bass graduated from school and left town in 1985, they were replaced by Cedric Dent, David Thomas, and Alvin Chea. In 1987 the sextet was signed by Warner Bros., Nashville, and changed its name to Take 6.

Take 6's members have musical backgrounds, crossover tastes, and expansive ambitions. The Kibbles' father was minister of what Mark describes as "a very musical church." McKnight's grandfather, Fred Willis Sr., was a church choir director; and as a child McKnight attended his mother's rehearsals and learned to play trombone, which he says advanced his ear training. Chea has detailed his debt to jazz musicians such as Ron Carter for his "walking bass" vocal style.

Dent is a serious academic, who earned a Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Maryland in 1997. (He wrote his dissertation on the harmonic development of the black religious quartet singing tradition.) A frequent university guest lecturer, he hosted a Nashville Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television station's music education series for children titled "Music to My Ears" in 1999, and has served as the music minister in several churches. Founding member Warren, since leaving Take 6 in 1991, has established himself as an independent music and film producer, working with such acclaimed musicians as Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Smokey Robinson, and the Manhattan Transfer.

Rich voices, swinging arrangements, righteous lyrics, and overall exuberance earned Take 6 (1988), the group's debut album, two Grammy Awards and Top 10 appearances on Billboard magazine's Contemporary Jazz and Contemporary Christian charts. These kudos put the group on the path to innumerable Down Beat magazine poll honors and Dove Awards from the Gospel Association. Take 6 sings original compositions and refreshed versions of traditional and standard spirituals such as "David and Goliath" and Thomas Dorsey's "If We Never Needed the Lord Before (We Sure Do Need Him Now)." They emphasize a warmly accessible, contemporary musicalitycomplete with finger-snapping, added percussion, and subtle electronic enhancementsrather than insistent preaching or folkloric purism. The group also brings out the spiritual side of soul songs such as Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You" and Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready."

The group added instrumentation to its a cappella arrangements for one track on its third record, So Much to Say (1990), and also for Join the Band (1994), on which Ray Charles, Queen Latifah, Stevie Wonder, and Herbie Hancock guest star. Brothers (1996), produced by McKnight's brother Brian, a successful songwriter, has not even one a cappella track, which provoked concern from Take 6's core audience, but the group returned to the unaccompanied format on So Cool, varying arrangements to incorporate Ladysmith Black Mambazoinfluenced South African choral singing as well as a quasi-big band track. Beautiful World (2002) was co-produced by Marcus Miller, the electric bassist who served as Miles Davis's producer during the mid-1980s; he, too, added select smooth jazz instrumentation to the ensemble's voices, without discernible harm. The faith-based entertainment of Take 6 clearly comforts audiences in times of stress; the band won a Grammy Award in 2002 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for singing "Love's in Need of Love Today" with Stevie Wonder on the America: A Tribute to Heroes telecast in 2001.

Besides promoting Christianity and a cappella singing, Take 6 has had a significant and direct influence on secular pop singing groups such as the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC and on a cappella soloist Bobby McFerrin.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Take 6 (Reprise, 1988); So Much 2 Say (Warner Alliance, 1990); He Is Christmas (Reprise, 1991); Join the Band (Warner Alliance, 1994); Brothers (Reprise, 1996); So Cool (Warner Bros., 1998); The Greatest Hits (Reprise, 1999); We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Reprise, 1999); Tonight: Live (Reprise, 2000); Beautiful World (Warner Bros., 2002). With Nnenna Freelon: Soulcall (Concord, 2000).


howard mandel

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