Performing standards is not something new for the Grammy Award-winning vocal group Take 6. In fact, the reception for their remakes of pop, jazz and gospel classics has been so positive over the years, they decided to dedicate an entire album to them. VOA's Doug Levine fills us in on The Standard.
It's not often you hear acapella versions of Nat King Cole's "Straighten Up And Fly Right," Ella Fitzgerald's "A Tisket A Tasket," or "Someone To Watch Over Me" by George and Ira Gershwin. Then again, you never know what direction Take 6 will take with any tune, old or new.
Longtime member and producer Mark Kibble says Take 6 and standards go back a long way.
"The original idea of taking old songs and putting a treatment on them, bringing them up-to-date, that's how we started off," explains Kibble. "All along we've done that, but this is the first time we're actually just strictly doing the songs that you know so well."
Another well-worn remake is Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," which Mark describes as universal.
"I don't even know if Marvin Gaye knew how timeless the song was that he was going to write," he says. "But when we got a hold of it we figured it's been done so many different ways, but it's never been done acapella. So [we decided] let's go ahead and do it and put a new flavor on it, because when you listen to it, it's something that we definitely need to hear today."
Making guest appearances on the album are guitarist George Benson, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vocalists Aaron Neville and Brian McKnight, younger brother of Take 6 founder Claude McKnight.
While Take 6 is known for pushing the boundaries, there is one song even Mark Kibble wasn't so sure about recording, "Seven Steps To Heaven" by Miles Davis.
"Miles Davis pieces are not easy," notes Kibble. "He was definitely coming from a different planet. You know, going through and figuring out exactly what he did as far as his trumpet solo was concerned. Oh my goodness, I didn't realize what I was getting into."
Mark sings lead on "Seven Steps To Heaven," and is joined by vocal veterans Jon Hendricks and Al Jarreau.