Take 6: A Cappella At Academy Of Music

Posted: February 19, 1991

It's one thing for an artist to claim divine inspiration. It's quite another thing to show evidence of it, as Take 6 did Sunday at the Academy of Music.

The male a cappella sextet, composed of young Seventh-Day Adventists from Alabama, asked the audience members to act as if they were in church, and the crowd, which began calling out at the first note and kept it up throughout the evening, gladly complied.

The group, which collaborates on its arrangements, unfurled a harmonic complexity unrivaled in pop and gospel. "Plucking" his stomach as if it actually were an instrument, bass Alvin Chea began by establishing a foundation of rhythmic pops. Each member then added another instrument: drums, trombone, alto and tenor sax, trumpet.

The result was broadly ranged, raucous and incredible. Throughout the evening, the group flipped the conventions of traditional close-harmony gospel as if it were on a seesaw.

Whether reinterpreting standards such as "Mary, Don't You Weep" or laying down human-beatbox funk jams like "I L-O-V-E You," the group members, all of them dressed to murder, poured every iota of their souls into each note.

Nevertheless, the best time to listen to Take 6 was not in the middle of its phenomenal phrases; it was during the pauses, like the one that followed its rendition of the national anthem, when the remnants of notes reverberated around the auditorium.

There was just one small problem. On performances of some selections from Take 6's latest album, So Much 2 Say, the recorded backup blotted out the group's crystal-clear harmonies.

Opening for Take 6 was guitarist Mark Whitfield, who played 45 minutes of laid-back jazz with his quartet. His style has been compared to that of early George Benson, but a more powerful influence, heard in his improvisational style, may be Wes Montgomery. On one selection, "Medgar Evers Blues," the Texas-style blues of Charlie Christian also shone through.

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