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October 25, 2005

Take 6, P.R.A.I.S.E. Team a heavenly pairing

Louisville Courier-Journal, KY):

Take 6, from left, Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, Alvin Chea, Joel Kibble, David Thomas and Cedric Dent, shifted easily between religious and secular themes during their Saturday performance.

It's common practice in concert reviews to relegate opening acts to a few vague phrases in the final paragraph. But The PRAISE Team, which opened Saturday night's Brown-Forman Midnite Ramble at the Brown Theatre, is no common opening act. It's an 11-piece a cappella gospel ensemble (six men, five women) from Louisville that harkens back to the rootsy sounds from which Motown, soul, and R&B drew their inspiration in the '50s and '60s.

Led by Tierra Watkins, the group (affiliated with Christ's Church For Our Community) roared through an exuberant 30-minute set full of spine-tingling sounds. "I Really Love U Lord" featured hairpin dynamics and pristine, densely textured chords topped off by a fiery solo descant that would have made Aretha Franklin proud.

"Marching To Zion" was a stirring call-and-response anthem full of rustic improvised energy. When Dan Forte, the Kentucky Center's director of programming, introduced the group, he described it as "awesome," and urged the audience to seek its CD. It was an apt description and very good advice.

And as for the headliners, Take 6, in a 90-minute set that ranged generously across their 25-year career and included a preview of their upcoming release "Feels Good," they demonstrated why they've earned multiple Grammy awards and remain among the most popular touring vocal ensembles in America. They shifted easily between religious and secular themes, mostly cultivating a sophisticated jazzy sound couched in technical precision one might expect from a choir steeped in Renaissance traditions.

A vocal adaptation of Miles Davis' "All Blues" invoked the spirit of the jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. "Lamb of God," with its sudden caesuras and sculpted sonic arches, echoed through the Brown as if it were a great cathedral. But the group is equally comfortable with the rougher sounds of Southern gospel, as it showed in a handful of tunes, including a humor-laced "Grandma's Hands."

Posted by acapnews at October 25, 2005 12:11 AM