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February 19, 2005

Take 6 attuned to 'most incredible instrument'

Tallahassee Democrat (FL):

The heavenly harmonies of a cappella singing group Take 6 seem to lock into place like musical puzzle pieces. It sounds as if the sextet's members have a mind meld that allows them to blend voices effortlessly. That mind meld exists, but it's bolstered by tight, impeccable arrangements, according to Take 6 founder Claude McKnight III. "It's all very scripted," McKnight said in a phone interview. "I'd dare say it's so well-scripted that it appears seamless, which is exactly what you want. We make sure our arrangements are very planned out. In case we take a left turn in concert, we have a road map to follow."

Take 6's tuneful trail leads to Ruby Diamond Auditorium on Saturday for a concert presented by Seven Days of Opening Nights. McKnight, the older brother of popular R&B performer Brian McKnight, said the program will feature a mix of new material and hits from the group's two-decade, award-studded career.

Take 6 started as a quartet called The Gentlemen's Estate at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala. Mc¬Knight, who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and moved with his family to Orlando when he was a sophomore in high school, never thought it would blossom into a career. "I started the group as a hobby," he said. "I was a music major, but I was also an incredibly shy person, and I never thought I'd be up on stage performing for an audience."

Music was a family affair for McKnight. "There was a lot of music in our house when I was a kid," he said. "From the time I was walking I can remember being at choir rehearsal with my mom. My ear was trained at an early age." The trained ear is essential in a cappella singing, McKnight said. "When the ears are trained, the voices will follow," McKnight said.

The group's uplifting sound has earned it seven Grammy Awards, as well as a shelf full of other honors, and prompted noted producer Quincy Jones to proclaim Take 6 "the greatest vocal ensemble on the planet." Its appeal has spread worldwide, and the group just recently returned from a tour of Japan. "We've gone there every year since 1989," McKnight said. "We have rabid fans in Japan. It seems like Japanese culture is very hungry for Western music, particularly black American music and gospel."

Take 6's mix of gospel, jazz and pop exploits the universal allure of unaccompanied singing. "Even with all the technology we have - and I'm a big fan of technology - the human voice is still the most incredible instrument there is," McKnight said. "That's the draw of Take 6, in a sense, because we're a very avant garde, very showy kind of a cappella group, but on one level everyone can identify with what we do because we all have voices."

Posted by acapnews at February 19, 2005 12:16 AM