On the "A" w/Souleo: With New Album, Take 6 Wants You To Take Another Listen

If you don't remember just how successful and influential a cappella group Take 6 is, well, that's okay. They're ready to serve a reminder with their new release Believe. The album comes during a time when a cappella is experiencing renewed mainstream interest from viral social media videos to the success of a cappella quintet Pentatonix to hit movies like Pitch Perfect. All of which builds on the success of Take 6 who have enjoyed a nearly 30-year career with 10 Grammy Awards, critically acclaimed performances and collaborations with Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and Queen Latifah.

Take 6/Credit: Peter Wochniak

"We are architects for some of contemporary a cappella and may be influential," said group member Claude McKnight. "But I understand if we are not mentioned quite as we or others think we should be mentioned. I've always tried to look at the larger picture. I understand times and people's tastes change. Things come in and out of focus so people move on to what is more contemporary. I love what I see and hear because it brings light back to us as well. And we are still really good at what we do."

Credit: Peter Wochniak

One of those things McKnight believes the group does exceptionally well is harmony. During the recording process he shared that the group decided to focus on that signature aspect of their sound as they genre-hopped from jazz to R&B to gospel.

"We learned that you need to exploit and refine the things that are most unique about yourself. Folks know us for our arrangements and harmonies. So we decided on this new album to go further. That doesn't mean more harmony. It means to make more unique harmony and make sure if it's jazz, R&B or gospel that soon as you hear it, you know these are Take 6 style harmonies."

Candice Hoyes gives life to rare Duke Ellington songs

If Candice Hoyes were not a jazz singer she would likely do quite well as a researcher. In preparation for her debut album from last year, On a Turquoise Cloud, she conducted extensive archival research on obscure Duke Ellington songs written specifically for a woman's soprano or classical voice.

Candice Hoyes/Credit: Jessie Obialor

"I felt like Indiana Jones wearing gloves and going through all these ritualistic things in the archives," said Hoyes. "When I got my hands on that first box it was exciting to open it. It was a very soulful experience and inspired me to work even harder."

Finding the music was one thing, but being able to bring it to life was another. To help realize her vision she teamed up with producer Ulysses Owens Jr. for new arrangements to the songs. They collaborated with older generation jazz musicians, many of whom Hoyes met while working as a vocalist at Jazz at Lincoln Center. For Hoyes the intergenerational aspect of the project--from connecting with women who previously sang the material to working with her band--is a crucial element to keeping jazz music and history relevant.

Credit: Jessie Obialor

"I had the deep privilege of seeing some videos of the signers whose music I pay tribute to such as Adelaide Hall and Kay Davis. For young artists it's important to dig into that kind of stuff," she said. "Having an intergenerational band allowed me to benefit from them as mentors, colleagues and artists. As a younger ambassador of the music I think it's necessary to have them be part of the conversation."


The weekly column, On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company Souleo Enterprises LLC.