SAX PLAYER SAVES THE DAY
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)