- Views & Opinions
When The Manhattan Transfer joins Take 6 in their touring show The Summit Oct. 26 in Milwaukee, it will be a collision of sound, energy and harmonies. Ten voices will fill the air with vocal jazz, pop, doo-wop and gospel music.
Both groups are multiple Grammy Award winners, with more than 10 awards each. Both credit jazz vocal arranger Gene Puerling, founder and arranger for the 1950s group The Hi-Lo’s, as significant to their musical development.
“Both groups are steeped in the vocal music traditions of The Mills Brothers, The Hi-Lo’s and others, and that’s where we’re able to come together,” Take 6 founder Claude McKnight said. “But some of the differences are pretty obvious.”
The only thing missing for fans of vocal jazz will be Transfer member Tim Hauser, who died of a heart attack while touring with the group in 2014.
“Tim was the founder and primal force behind The Manhattan Transfer — in many ways a guiding light and a very dear friend,” said Janis Siegel, one of the group’s original members. “We all miss him deeply and irrevocably.”
The group did not stop touring after Hauser’s death and his place in the quartet was filled by Trist Curless, who also is a sound engineer for Straight, No Chaser, Pentatonix and other vocal groups.
Younger than the Manhattan Transfer veterans, Curless brings a new approach and understanding of the music industry that can spur the group toward new directions, Siegel said.
“He’s also a true bass, whereas Tim was a baritone and low tenor who sang the lower parts of our songs,” she added.
Curless’ first recording with The Manhattan Transfer will appear on the upcoming album of another vocal group. They sing a rendition of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” on A Pentatonix Christmas.
For all that Take 6 and the Transfer have in common, though, there also are significant differences between the group formed by six Oakwood College classmates in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1987 and the New York-born jazz vocal quartet that based its sound on the saxophone section of the Count Basie Orchestra.
Still, the groups’ talents are complementary rather than contradictory, said McKnight.
As a quartet, The Manhattan Transfer boasts the female voices of Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne and the male voices of Curless and Alan Paul. Take 6 has an all-male lineup.
Take 6’s six-part harmony also offers more musical range than Manhattan Transfer’s four-part arrangements, which usually rely on a backup instrumental combo to broaden its scope.
“Our biggest difference is that we can extend the chords further,” McKnight said. “Instead of four concurrent notes we now have six, which adds additional musical color and gives us a sound that’s more lush.”
McKnight hails from a musical family and started out intending to be a trombonist and jazz arranger. In college, his vocal music group was “just a hobby.” But fate in the form of an unintentional audition turned a hobby into a profession.
“We were the opening act at a Nashville showcase for another vocal group called Special Blend, of which two of us also were part,” McKnight said. “Special Blend was looking for a recording contract, but instead Warner Music Nashville offered the contract to Take 6.”
Ever since, Take 6 has been performing with almost the same lineup, which includes McKnight, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, Dave Thomas, Alvin Chea and Khristian Dentley.
“We have had to learn to respect, like and even love each other to do 120 dates a year,” he said. “I think we realize that our mission is bigger than any one member’s musical whims or wishes. It’s our ministry of sorts.”
Take 6, now in the midst of 40-plus dates with The Manhattan Transfer, finds the new partnership exhilarating.
Each group does its own set, then the groups come together for a few numbers.
“Ten voices is a lot of musical information coming at the audience and you have to do it in creative ways that don’t overwhelm either them or us,” McKnight said.
Siegel added, “We’ve been working really well together. Mark Kibble is their arranger and musical mastermind and he and our musical director Yaron Gershovsky have been working to make our joint performances really swing.”
The Summit will be more than individual concerts by either group could ever deliver to their respective fans, McKnight said.
Said Siegel: “I think Manhattan Transfer fans will be blown away.”
The Manhattan Transfer and Take 6 bring their touring show The Summit to Milwaukee on Oct. 26 in the Wilson Theater at Marcus Center for the Performing Arts’ Vogel Hall, 929 N. Water St. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased by calling 414-273-7406 or visiting marcuscenter.org.