1. Sweet Georgia Brown
2. Straighten Up and Fly Right
3. Seven Steps to Heaven
4. Windmills of Your Mind
5. Someone to Watch Over Me
6. Grace (pre-prise)
7. Back to You
8. A-Tisket A-Tasket
9. Bein' Green
10. Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
11. What's Going On
12. Shall We Gather at the River
Take 6: Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, David Thomas,
Joey Kibble, Cedric Dent, Alvin Chea - Vocals
George Benson - Vocals, guitar (track 2)
Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau - Vocals (track 3)
Till Bronner - Flugelhorn (track 3)
Shelea Frazier - Vocals (track 5)
Roy Hargrove - Trumpet (track 5)
Miles Robertson - Keyboards (track 5)
Mark Bowers - Guitar (track 5)
Mark Kelley - Bass (track 5)
Butter - Drums (track 5)
Jamaal Andrews - Bass (track 7)
Khristian Dentley - Instruments (track 7)
Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals (track 8)
Cedric Dent - Piano. keyboards (tracks 9, 13)
Aaron Neville - Vocals (track 10)
Brian McKnight - Vocals (track 11)
Jimmie "JJ"Hodges Jr. - Drums (track 13)
In the current karaoke world, most people seem
to think they can sing. But if you want to hear real singing,
get this new album from one of the finest a cappella groups.
Take 6 is a sextet which was formed in the 1980s by Claude McKnight
and, despite personnel changes, they have maintained a strong reputation
for vocal excellence. On this new CD they mainly tackle jazz standards
(hence the title) and show that they can not only sing in perfect harmony
but that they can breathe new life into the oldest material.
Sweet Georgia Brown, for starters, is so familiar
as to be hackneyed but it comes up fresh and sparkling, thanks to the
imaginative arrangement which includes whistling by Mark Kibble. Guests
add variety to the album, with George Benson donating his skills as
guitarist and vocalist to Straighten Up and Fly Right.
Seven Steps to Heaven is one of the CD's highest
highlights, a catchy tune by Victor Feldman and Miles Davis to which
Jon Hendricks has added lyrics. Hendricks perceptively noticed that
the tune's basic melody consists of seven notes, which allows the singers
to count the seven steps up to heaven and back again. Al Jarreau gabbles
some incomprehensible words faster than a Gilbert & Sullivan patter
song but Take 6's harmonies raise this section from mystifying to heavenly.
Windmills of Your Mind leaves the six vocalists
to make their own music, staying perfectly in tune on the difficult
changes, mixing together a varied palette of solo and choral voices.
Shelea Frazier is the excellent lead vocalist in Someone to Watch
Over Me, with high-flying trumpeter Roy Hargrove and a rhythm section
augmenting Take 6's warm backing.
Track 6 is a brief preview of track 13, Grace
- a Quincy Jones composition which is treated to some sublime harmonies.
Back to You was written by the group's Claude McKnight and he
is probably the one who contributes the moving near-falsetto singing.
A-Tisket A-Tasket skilfully adds Ella Fitzgerald's original hit
vocals to Take 6's harmonising. Bein' Green is the well-known
Muppets song about the joys of being verdant. Cedric Dent supplies the
froggy voice and a topical reference unexpectedly appears at the end
with the words: "Wouldn't it be something if one day the country
had a green president - hmmm, a president of colour!"
Guest singer Aaron Neville - the best-known of the Neville
Brothers - makes Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
another highspot. The New Orleans-born singer tremulously and poignantly
expresses his sadness at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina
(in which Aaron's own house was destroyed). Take 6 use their voices
to imitate a New Orleans street band as appropriate accompaniment.
Brian McKnight (Claude's brother) pays homage to Marvin
Gaye by interpreting Marvin's song What's Going On in a style
that evokes its originator. Shall We Gather at the River brings
Take 6 back to their gospel roots and is sung in memory of the late
Gene Puerling, leader and arranger for two other notable vocal groups:
the Hi-Los and Singers Unlimited. Here and throughout the album, Take
6's vocalising is so impeccable and brilliantly harmonised that it takes
one's breath away. These guys really can sing - and you should listen!