We start the week with a song from my childhood. My uncle is the pianist in a longstanding jazz fusion band called the Yellowjackets. The band formed in 1977 around the popular jazz guitarist, Robben Ford. In 1991, they collaborated with the the acapella group Take 6 to record the song “Revelation.” The tune was written by my uncle, Russ Ferrante, and has a gospel feel and traditional harmonic structure that is atypical for the Yellowjackets. Russ drew inspiration for this song from his childhood, as he was raised in a family that was highly involved in gospel choral music. Russ collaborated with lyricist Lorraine Perry to create what is now one of the band’s most iconic numbers. It remains one of my favorite jams to this day!
Growing up, I was fascinated with the Grammy winning a cappella group “Take 6”. A group of six young black men singing about the power of goodness and Love was an incredible thing for me to look up to. Take 6 was started by singer Claude McKnight and 5 of his classmates at Oakwood College. Oakwood is a religious school in Alabama that has a rich culture of music. 16-time Grammy nominee, Brian McKnight attended Oakwood and is the little brother of Claude McKnight. Oakwood has produced some of my favorite opera, soul, and jazz singers, so it is no surprise that all of the members of Take 6 attended this incredible institution. One of my favorite pieces from the Take 6 catalog is “Come Unto Me”. It is a biblical text from Mathew 11 verses 28-30 that is the words of Jesus telling his people that if they are tired from carrying their burdens, they should come to him and learn gentleness and humility to allow them rest. As a child I was obsessed with the close harmonies, and as I got older, I started to appreciate other elements such as word painting, and the words themselves.
It’s Tuesday. It’s really hot this July. Tempers are flaring, folks are getting violent (though I’ve read that crime is down 50% over the past 20 years). Politics looks like some wierd version of “Survivor”. What we need is something cool and uplifting. Take 6, who emerged in the late 1980’s has always been my favorite a cappella boy band. They created their own sounds and rhythms way before any one heard of beatboxing. Here they are in something very cool, and for me, reassuring for these sizzling times. “We Sure Do Need Him Now”.
New York Festival of Song • One Penn Plaza • #6108 • New York, NY 10119 • 646-230-8380 • email@example.com