Contemporary Jazz

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A Take 6 Christmas

14 DEC 10 JONATHAN WIDRAN

While secular Concord artists like Kenny G and Dave Koz have delivered wonderful bestselling Christmas albums over the years, there's something truly special and heartfelt that happens when a legendary gospel influenced group like Take 6 tackles seasonal fare. For the 10-time Grammy Award and 10 time Dove Award winning a capella ensemble, a holiday collection like The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (their second release on Heads Up) is an extension of the way they live, breathe and harmonize the message of Christmas and Christ all year round. It's also available as part of Concord's holiday promotion.

It's a warm, familiar turf they covered twice before during their extraordinary 15-year tenure on Warner Bros., with He Is Christmas (1991) and We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1999). Applying their infectious mix of jazz, gospel, R&B and vintage doo-wop elements to so many spiritual songs on those sets leaves them free this time to do a little strolling through the secular holiday catalog -- which is exactly what they do beyond "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" and "I Saw Three Ships."

Founder Claude McKnight's goal for his group was simple: "We each picked songs that we sing with our families every year on at the holidays." Their gleefully percussive twist on "White Christmas" and buoyant takes on "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bells" might be expected choices, but their mischievous, humorous "Grinch" medley and trumpet laced "Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairies" are delightfully refreshing. The group takes a backing harmony role on the cover of Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown classic "Christmas Time Is Here," sung by Shelea Frazier, who appeared on their 2008 label debut The Standard.



Jeff Lorber - Hacienda