For the duration of its 25 year recording career, Take 6 has almost always had timing on its side. You can hear it at work within the vocal group’s sublime harmonizing, its balance of myriad musical styles and even its understanding of the right occasion to mark an artistic milestone.
In fact, the only noteworthy instance that comes to mind when timing even remotely failed the Grammy winning ensemble came with its last Central Kentucky appearance – a 2011 collaborative concert with the Lexington Philharmonic. That performance came only four months after the release of Take 6’s third holiday album, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Unfortunately, that was one month too many, as the show fell in January – a time when the call for Christmas music isn’t exactly plentiful.
Take 6 makes up for lost time, so to speak, this weekend with a holiday-themed program at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville.
“I’ve always felt that Christmas songs, in general, are some of the prettiest songs ever written,” said group singer and founder Claude McKnight. “A lot of them also lend themselves to the kind of arranging that Mark Kibble, our primary arranger (and, next to McKnight, its most longstanding member) does. These shows are really fun because we have some really cool arrangements of these songs. So it’s great to bring them out every year.”
A primarily a capella vocal ensemble (although, some recordings, like 2008’s jazz-directed The Standard album, make use of minimal instrumentation) Take 6 has touched upon elements of gospel, soul, pop and jazz ahead of its holiday themed music. In doing so, it has taken home 10 Grammy Awards, collaborated with a vast stable of high-profile pals (including Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles and McKnight’s celebrated younger brother Brian McKnight) and toured regularly around the world. As recently as last month, Take 6 performed in Moscow and Istanbul.
“The thing about music is that it really is a universal language,” McKnight said. “A lot of these places get into jazz-type music and gospel, both of which we do, because it’s so different from things they may be used to. Being a capella, as well, matters, too. I think sometimes whether or not they know who we are, they want to come to see what this music is all about.”
McKnight formed the vocal group that eventually became Take 6 as a freshman at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. He had little reason to believe the troupe would achieve much by way commercial popularity simply because he never imagined it as a full time professional enterprise.
“Quite honestly, when I started the group, it was basically a hobby. We were in school. We were part of a college that was known for its a cappella groups, so I wanted to have a group, too. I had no clue that this would be something we would be doing all these years later. It’s a blessing that we’ve been able to latch upon this and continue doing it.”
Along with work on an upcoming album of duets, Take 6 will release next year a fully re-recorded version of its self-titled, platinum selling, Grammy winning debut album from 1988. Why revisit and recreate a past triumph? Simple. The album is out of print. At present, Warner Bros. Records, which initially released the record, has no plans of re-issuing it.
“Since a lot of people found out who Take 6 was from that first record, we wanted to re-record it in almost exactly the same way 25 years later with better technology and, hopefully, better voices and everything. For us, it’s very much a nostalgic piece.”
Take 6 performs at 8 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Norton Center for the Arts, 600 West Walnut St. in Danville. Tickets are $24-$46. Call (877) 448-7469 or go to www.nortoncenter.com.