The a cappella jazz group known as Take 6 is not only the heirs to the rich tradition of the doo-wop and gospel groups of the 1950s, but also the leaders in the second wave of jazz and pop vocal groups that emerged in the 1990s. With these noteworthy legacies at their foundation, these multiple Grammy winners continue to look and move in a forward direction as the first decade of the 21st century unfolds.
The Take 6 story began at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1980, when freshman Claude V. McKnight III formed a quartet known as the Gentlemen’s Estate Club. When tenor Mark Kibble heard the group rehearsing in - of all places - a campus restroom, he joined in the harmonies and performed onstage with the group that same night.
Mervyn Warren joined shortly after, and the group briefly took the name of Alliance. They performed in local churches and on campus for the next few years, with personnel changing frequently as older members graduated and new voices arrived on campus to replace them.
After college, the group signed with the Warner Brothers label in 1987 and changed their name to Take 6. Their self-titled debut album, released the following year, scored two Grammy Awards and landed in the top ten on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz and Contemporary Christian charts.
The group’s swinging, harmony-rich gospel sound attracted a flurry of attention, and the group went on to record or perform with numerous jazz luminaries, including Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder.
The 1990 follow-up album, So Much 2 Say, was equally successful, climbing to the Number Two spot on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart and scoring a Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. Warren left the group a year later to pursue a career as a producer. He was replaced by Joey Kibble, Mark’s younger brother.
The group added instrumentation to their purely a cappella sound beginning with the 1991 holiday release, He is Christmas. The album scored yet another Grammy, this time for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. A string of finely crafted recordings continued throughout the remainder of the decade: Join the Band (1994), Brothers (1996), So Cool (1998) and a second holiday album, We Wish You a Merry Christmas (1999). Join the Band and Brothers were both Grammy winners.
In 2000, Take 6 released a live recording and a best-of collection, followed by Beautiful World in 2002. The group left Warner Brothers after Beautiful World and launched their own Take 6 label. Their maiden voyage in the new venture was Feels Good, released in 2006.
Take 6 joined Heads Up International with the release of The Standard in August 2008. The album includes guest appearances by R&B luminaries Aaron Neville and Brian McKnight (Claude’s brother), as well as veteran jazzmen George Benson, Al Jarreau and Jon Hendricks. “While we sing lyrics that always exemplify our spiritual and moral convictions, what we really are at the core is a jazz vocal group,” says Dave Thomas, a member of the Take 6 lineup since 1985.
The Standard garnered three Grammy nominations in 2009 for Best Gospel Performance, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), and Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.
Teaming again with Heads Up Records, in 2010, Take 6 released their third Christmas album of holiday favorites and classic Christmas standards titled, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. The album climbed to the Top 40 spot on Billboard’s U.S. Jazz charts.
In May 2011, two years before Take 6’s 25th anniversary of their first commercial release, Cedric Dent announced that he was stepping down as a principal member of the group. “It has been perhaps one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my adult life,” Cedric shared with fans.
While Dr. Dent no longer tours with Take 6, he will continue to work with the group behind the scenes contributing musical arrangements and offering assistance when needed. Cedric’s decreased role will allow him to pursue other creative endeavors, including more composing and arranging, music research, teaching, consulting, writing books, and spending time with his family.
As a member of the faculty at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), Cedric will take a leading role raising funds for the establishing Take 6 Vocal Jazz Scholarship program, further contributing to the Take 6 legacy.
Multi-talented music producer, musician, and baritone, Khristian Dentley, replaces Dr. Dent on the road and in the day-to-day operations. Dentley has filled in for Cedric off and on since 2004, and has developed a strong rapport within the group, as well as Take 6 audiences throughout the world.