I’ll Take 6...Anytime
I’ll never forget the time I saw the Whiffenpoofs when they came to perform at my high school in the late 70’s. I had never really seen a capella live and I was mesmerized by the harmony, the camaraderie and showmanship these college seniors possessed. A couple years later, I saw the Zumbyes at Amherst College where my sister went to school, and I bought their record and played it until I knew every song. Then I discovered Manhattan Transfer who sang many of the same songs and I saw them whenever they played in New York. Eventually, I worked my way to some of the earlier jazz a capella groups like Lambert, Hendricks and Ross who really pioneered the medium in the late 50’s.
When Take 6 got popular in the 80’s, they had me hooked from the first note I heard. Their lush sound, gospel inspiration, and magical harmonies spoke to me and since then I have seen them live at least 5 times. With the popularity of a capella music in the last few years and success of groups like Pentatonix, I was thrilled the 10 time Grammy winning Take 6 was returning to St. Louis in the perfect venue of Jazz at the Bistro.
Last night was the 6th time I have heard Take 6, and perhaps the best. Despite taking the red eye flight earlier in the day, Take 6 stormed the stage opening with one of their earliest tunes Spread Love followed by We Wish You a Merry Christmas. There so much to love about Take 6, from their rich harmonies to their energy, smiles, warmth, dance steps, spirituality and message about love and family. I would be remiss in not mentioning their good looks and fine clothes that tie this easy to like package with the finest silk bow.
They quickly bridged to Let It Snow, featuring their bass who has the lowest voice I have ever heard juxtaposed to the other five band members who all can sing tenor or higher. As they sing and dance, they change positions on stage, snapping their fingers, waving their hands and challenging your ears with a continual cacophony of sounds.
When Take 6 sang The Grinch, the vocal bass (Alvin Chea) and first tenor (Claude McKnight III) both sang the bass line. Wow! Hearing a tenor sing from bass to tenor notes is one of those musical wonders you have to hear for yourself. Watching each vocalist take his turn as lead vocalist showed off the range of extraordinary talent of a group who have been with Take 6 for as many as 37 years.
The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies featured an all-voice trumpet solo which sounded just like Miles Davis. Then came Have Yourself A Merry Christmas and I’ll Be Home for Christmas which was dedicated to the veterans in the audience. The dedication and words of the song brought the man seated in front of me to tears, making me wonder if he remembers being in the service this time of year or the memory of a lost friend or son who defended our country.
People clapped and danced to the all-voice version of Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed. It was then followed by my favorite Take 6 song, Family of Love. So apropos, the band talked about their travels all over the world and their conclusion there is only one race...the human race. It was the perfect message considering all of the hate in the world, and so well received by the consistently diverse Jazz at the Bistro audience.
Toward the end of the show, Take 6 honored artists who died this year with the song Stand By Me followed by Got to Get You Into My Life by Earth Wind and Fire which immediately brought people to their feet as the band members thanked the crowd and said goodnight. But the fans just wouldn’t have it and convinced the band to play an unplugged version of Hallelujah which felt God sent...just as Take 6 would want it.
If your need a reason to get in the holiday mood, don’t miss Take 6 at Jazz at the Bistro tonight thru Saturday December 16th. Tickets are still available by calling the box office at 314-571-6000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
And remember to tell them you heard about it on SophisticatedStLouis.com.