This almost exclusively a cappella group, first founded in Alabama in 1980, has arrangers that go for broke. The harmonies are avant garde, often expanding the range of what accompanying parts in the group’s chosen genres can do. The chords will turn you topsy-turvy, the polyrhythms will bop you heard but you won’t know whether left or right. But it all works out, for one, because all the voices are flawlessly on pitch in their particular roles.
Take 6 next performed perhaps the most r and b of all songs by the Beatles, “Got to Get You Into My Life,” which served as a greeting to their enthusiastic audiences (I was a witness to one tonight, certainly) but also an homage to John Lennon on this dire anniversary date. Then they served up some holiday beauty with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas/Carol of the Bells,” “Let It Snow.” Even in these Christmas songs, which have a long performance tradition, the harmonies were alive with swirling and rhythmic play. At times, Bach’s The Art of Fugue came to mind, except Take 6 gave us a great finish.
With Take 6, the possibilities of bebop ensemble singing, cool jazz, hip-hop, gospel, r and b, pop and even the classical of Bach, Debussy and Tchaikovsky (They did a version of his “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairys” they call by the cooler name very apropos for its cool jazz rendition “Sugar Plum Dance.”) All these influences show up in their song choices and arrangements, which tonight included Christopher Cross’ “Sailing,” Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” Eric Clapton’s “Change Your World” and Al Jarreau’s “Roof Garden.”
I was especially moved by their rendition of “Overjoyed,” in which several of the six take up instruments including guitar, piano and simulated muted trumpet. (This is when the vocal and instrumental harmonies seemed to have wafted from Pelléas et Mélisande.) Their encore, “You’re the Biggest Part of Me” was at once a claiming of Ambrosia’s 1980 song as a culmination of bebop and a thank you to an audience that showed Take 6 a warm welcome to Hope.