BT: Claude, thanks for your time today. I understand that Take 6 just returned from Europe - how was that leg of the tour?
CM: It was great - we were there for two weeks. We did six different countries - the shows were great and the people were great. It's a lot of travel, but it's wonderful.
BT: We're really enjoying your new album, The Standard. I know you must be pleased with the result.
CM: In the midst of our entire catalog, it's right up there with our overall favorites. It's hard for there to be a consensus among the six of us, but we all really love this recording.
BT: As the album title implies, the disc features Take 6's interpretations of some well-known songs including "What's Going On," "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "Sweet Georgia Brown." How do you select only a few songs from a vast number of older and newer standards?
CM: It was not that easy to narrow it down because there are so many great songs. We decided that whatever songs we considered to be standards - we use that term loosely because we did some Pop and R&B standards - we wanted them to have a thread through them that was uplifting in some form or fashion. Also, we didn't want too many cooks in the kitchen - you learn to trust one or two guys to make these decisions for the group.
BT: How do you maintain the integrity of an original recording while placing your own stamp on it?
CM: The nature of what Take 6 does can be so intricate that you want to retain enough of the original song, but you want to satisfy your creative impulses and what your audience has to come to expect from you. It's a very delicate process for us and, at times, we've probably gone past that mark and at other times we wish we had done more. We have to be true to ourselves and know that we feel good about the arrangement on a particular song.
BT: The Standard features some amazing guest performers including George Benson, Al Jarreau, Ella Fitzgerald, Aaron Neville and your brother, Brian. If you will, talk about the collaborations on the album.
CM: It was incredible. Over the 20 years we've been together, we have performed on so many of our friends' albums that we wanted our friends to sing with us. The songs dictated who we wanted to have on them and pretty much everybody said "yes."
BT: How do you place a guest artist with a particular song?
CM: You get the song and decide what direction the arrangement is going to take, then you decide who's voice would be great on that particular style of arrangement. It presents itself - you don't say "Let's do a song with George Benson; Okay, let's find a song."
BT: How do you feel about technology's prevalent role in today's music business given the emergence of iTunes, Youtube and Myspace?
CM: I think we're in the wild, wild West and that's a good thing for most musicians, especially brand new artists that wouldn't have the opportunity to be on a major label. There's a lot of work in doing it yourself, but the rewards are greater. You have to understand how to brand yourself, learn the marketing aspects and work your butt off to make it happen.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $24-$72 and can be purchased at www.alabamasymphony.org or by calling 251-7727.