« VocalEssence sings Bach with plenty of drama | Main | Mormon Tabernacle Choir Dominates Classical Charts »

March 8, 2005

Take 6 energizes theater's debut


Grammy-winning vocal group Take 6 is the definition of virtuosity. Gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, pop standards and hip-hop-flavored funk are at the crowd-pleasing sextet's command. Singing for nearly two hours Saturday night, the personable, casually attired Take 6 performed the first public concert at the Manship Theatre at the Shaw Center for the Arts. An audience happy to take Take 6 up on invitations to clap and sing along filled the intimate, 325-seat venue.

Using sophisticated vocal arrangements, ear-tingling harmonies and percussion produced by clapping, snapping fingers and stomping feet, the amazingly in sync Take 6 performed many selections a cappella. As the evening progressed, group members added piano and acoustic guitar to the mix. No drum set was on stage, but Take 6 displayed so much rhythm and spirit that no drummer was needed.

Taking the stage shortly after 8 p.m., the group impressed immediately with its opulent harmonies. A soulful rendition on the traditional "Wade in the Water" took Take 6 back to the group's ultimate roots, the spiritual. Sung with complexity of the kind found in instrumental jazz, "Water" included scat singing and voice-executed bass and percussion. A segment called "The Take 6 Jazz Vibe" introduced the guys and their uncanny ability to mimic jazz instruments. Alvin Chea played air bass as he sang his impression of upright acoustic bass. Tenor vocalist Claude V. McKnight III, pretending to work the slide on an imaginary trombone, sounded remarkably like that brass instrument. Joey Kibble did a great impression of muted trumpet. David Thomas was less convincing at electric guitar.

Shifting to rhythm and blues, Take 6 paid tribute to Ray Charles with "My Friend." Singing harmonies rich enough to be sonic Technicolor, the group captured the late singer-pianist's innovative blend of gospel and R&B. A theatrical, choreographed performance of "Fly Away" -- preceded by words of inspiration from Cedric Dent that wouldn't have been out of place at Sunday service -- lifted the mood in the Manship Theatre higher still. "All of the songs that we sing," McKnight said, "we truly believe put a little more pep in our step." Staying up-tempo, "Grandma's Hands" pushed the concert into gospel excitement. Doo-wop, however, didn't make Saturday's set list. In a city where the roots of rock 'n' roll are personal soundtracks for multiple generations, that was a disappointment.

Of course, gospel, jazz and pop standards aren't usually the stuff of hit records these days. Maybe with that in mind, Mark Kibble shouted lead for a modern R&B-style number. Accompanied by a slapping, probably pre-recorded rhythm track, this repetitious song lacked the cleverness usually associated with Take 6. The backing track, too, was overly loud in the small theater. And the group in general sounded as if it had been turned up a few notches too high, not a good idea for what's known in the music business as a "live" room. Fortunately, the group got back to its roots with an encore of the inspirational "Mary." Except for a few noisy missteps, Take 6 made opening night at the Manship Theatre a stirring debut.

Posted by acapnews at March 8, 2005 12:17 AM