Daily Nation (Barbados) - - Front Page - By KIM­BER­LEY CUM­MINS

Over its 41 years, the Richard Stoute Teen Tal­ent con­test has been syn­ony­mous with the vo­cal abil­i­ties of young Bar­ba­di­ans.

But last Sun­day night at the fifth pre­lim­i­nary of the 2017 sea­son, it was the sheer mu­si­cian­ship of stu­dent sax­o­phon­ist Zukeli In­niss that stole the show and the hearts of many in the au­di­ence at the Divi South­winds Re­sort in St Lawrence, Christ Church.

On a night that saw a rel­a­tively low-key first half from all seven con­tes­tants, the 16-year-old was able to stand out con­vinc­ingly. Ini­tially with his cover of Luther Van­dross’ If Only For One Night and later with his com­pe­tent ren­di­tion of Rock With You by Michael Jack­son to score 696 points.

To be hon­est, In­niss’ in­tro of the Van­dross piece wasn’t as im­pres­sive as it ought to be and this could have been at­trib­uted to some nerves. How­ever, as he got into his groove he be­gan to ap­pear more re­laxed and by the end, one could not help but be mes­merised by his gift.

In his lat­ter pre­sen­ta­tion, In­niss owned the stage from be­gin­ning to end. So much so, that he even threw in a cou­ple of MJ’S sig­na­ture dance moves. It wasn’t just his im­mac­u­late con­trol of the sax that struck one most. The lush tone was of the high­est qual­ity and he han­dled the trick­ier pas­sages fault­lessly and with ease, prompt­ing a de­serv­ing re­sponse from the in­ti­mate au­di­ence.

The evening be­gan on good foot­ing with the con­sis­tent, al­ways dap­perly at­tired Tarique Grif­fith, who ul­ti­mately placed sec­ond with just 34 points shy of In­niss.

Once again, Grif­fith de­liv­ered two out­stand­ing ren­di­tions in the form of Nina Si­mone’s cover of Feelin’ Good along with Billy Ocean’s Sud­denly. He was in nice form with a seem­ingly re­fined and ma­ture tone. One can as­sume that what­ever ex­tra vo­cal train­ing he may have taken, it has def­i­nitely helped him to con­trol to the lower reg­is­ter of Feelin’ Good, though there were some is­sues with the pitch com­ing on to the end.

Nonethe­less, the best vo­cals on the night; sul­try, smooth and pas­sion-filled. His vo­cals, dic­tion, pres­ence and style were enough to grab the at­ten­tion of even ri­vals, si­lenc­ing the en­tire room to give him a de­served stand­ing ova­tion. An­other semi-fi­nals-bound per­former was Ali­cia Al­leyne who placed third with 615 points. It is safe to say that of those con­tes­tants who have per­formed thus far, Al­leyne, along with Ni­cole Sealy, is in the run­ning for Most Im­proved. Al­leyne has a very dis­tinc­tive sound and wisely chooses songs to match her abil­ity, yet to also give her some chal­lenge. An ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple was Weak­ness In Me by Joan Ar­ma­trad­ing, which was a per­fect choice to ac­cen­tu­ate her unique in­to­na­tion. With her per­for­mance of Bound To You by Christina Aguil­era, she too has made an in­vest­ment to im­prove her vo­cals. On an­other note, Al­leyne must work on her con­fi­dence. You can al­most see the self­doubt on her face as she utilises the stage. On the sub­ject of im­prove­ments, af­ter a year’s break, Sealy re­turned with an im­pres­sive bang, singing songs by rhythm and blues croon­ers Etta James (I’d Rather Go) and Sam Cooke ( A Change Is Gonna Come). While she did not move on to the semi-fi­nals, this 19-year-old has much to be proud of. Sealy was a joy to watch and lis­ten to. Her vo­cals were soul­ful, and her pres­ence was in­fec­tious. Her only flaw, in my opin­ion, was bad mi­cro­phone tech­nique, which ren­dered her in­audi­ble at many points in the first song. Two per­sons rec­om­mended to the next stage were: Jes­sica Green with 607 and Akeba In­niss568. Atrice Joseph also per­formed. (SDB Me­dia)

ZUKELI IN­NISS, 16 years old, placed first with his sax­o­phone play­ing.

ALI­CIA AL­LEYNE was third with 615 points.

TARIQUE GRIF­FITH placed sec­ond. (Pic­tures by Mau­rice Giles.)

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