Nearly 30 years after forming in Huntsville, Ala., members of the close-harmony vocal group Take 6 are still paying tribute to the past while looking to the future.
The group, which originally performed as a gospel/a cappella act inspired by doo-wop and jazz, has spent its career expanding on traditional close vocal harmony music, inspiring a generation of pop and jazz ensembles. In the process, the group has won 10 Grammy Awards, and its members continue to re-invent and redefine what the Take 6 sound is.
"This group formed when we were young and in an area where there was a rich history of a cappella music," said David Thomas, a member since the mid-1980s. "Take 6 was one of many, another act in a long line. The difference was the jazz arrangements. It is what set us apart. Those were our voices."
Before long, Take 6 had left strict a cappella singing behind, adding instrumentation to the arrangements. The group, which appears tonight with Symphony Orchestra Augusta, opened its horizons.
Recently, the band released The Standard , a collection of jazz standards. The album, Thomas said, came from the band accepting that while it will always be a gospel group and an a cappella act, the members are also jazz singers. The album celebrates Take 6's jazz leanings with its interpretations of American Songbook classics.
"I mean, the gospel thing is still an important part of who we are," Thomas said in a telephone interview. "You can't dodge that. We always thought we would end up with a traditional gospel recording contract. But because of our style, because of how we work, those weren't the people that came to the table."
Performing with orchestras, Thomas said, has long been a part of Take 6 performances. He said early dates were done as part of members' music graduate degrees and involved adapting the group's sound for orchestral arrangement.
"We get chill bumps," he said of playing with orchestras. "To be a member of a group like this is primarily about listening, about being completely in tune with the five other guys. So when you add that completely enveloping sound, it just blows us away. It feels so good. I mean, the first time we heard it we got so excited we could barely sing."