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JAZZ REVIEW

Harmonies come alive with Take 6

January 27, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

The high-spirited members of the vocal ensemble Take 6 didn't wait until they arrived on stage to start singing Thursday night at Catalina Bar & Grill. With Alvin Chea's booming bass vocal lines driving the rhythm, the six a cappella artists were in full harmony as they sprinted through the room and into the spotlights.

Take 6 is well-known for its capacity to crank up the energy in concert, but this time out, no buildup was needed to reach a level of intensity that remained high for the hour-plus set. So high, in fact, that after one of the singers discovered that his portable microphone had been off for the entire opening number, he said, with a smile, "If you liked it that much, wait'll you hear all six of us singing!"

He was right. All six were even better. The talent in Take 6 -- Chea, Cedric Dent, Joey Kibble, Mark Kibble, Claude V. McKnight III and David Thomas -- reaches from top to bottom, and each had the opportunity, in one form or another, to play a featured role. But the most impressive aspects of the group's performance reached well beyond the individual soloing.

There was, first of all, their sheer musicality. In the group's use of complex harmonies, with especially wide voicings, Take 6 follows the tradition of the Hi-Los and the Four Freshmen, expanding the earlier groups' block harmony style into complex contrapuntal passages, rich with moving inner lines.

They made fascinating use of simulated instrumental sounds, especially a dramatic collection of beat-box percussion accents.

Add to that their convincing blends of sacred and secular themes, often within the same song. "Wade in the Water," for example, was introduced with an audience singalong that eventually became a three-part harmony pattern accompanying the song's familiar melody.

Best of all, and the quality that brought all these remarkable qualities into focus, was the sense of joy and authenticity that enlivened every note. Together for nearly 30 years, linking up at various times with Al Jarreau, Quincy Jones and Ray Charles, Take 6 performed with the incomparable believability of singers still awed and invigorated by the powers of the human voice.

*

Take 6

Where: Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

When: 8:30 and 10:30 tonight, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday

Price: $40 (8:30 tonight), $35 (10:30 tonight, 7:30 p.m. Sunday), $30 (9:30 p.m. Sunday)

Contact: (323) 466-2210

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