By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
The eleventh annual Seattle-Kobe Jazz Vocalist Audition at Jazz Alley this spring, started simply, with a greeting from Mari M. Carpenter of the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Association. The competition, with two separate divisions for High School and Adult vocalists, sends two winners, one in each division, to Seattle’s sister city Kobe, where they perform as part of the Annual Kobe Jazz Vocal Queen Contest.
Six contestants in the High School category, and five in the Adult category, performed two songs each, accompanied sometimes by either a pianist or a guitarist.
The eventual High School winner, Alexandra Mountsier, accompanied by guitarist Lee Swedin, led off with “You’ve Changed,” breathy around the verses, tart around the title phrase, a fruitful contrast to a tale of evaporating love. The samba “O Pato,” with its cavorting barnyard animal lyrics in both English and Portuguese, flew by quickly, funny and pointed and deft, impressive in both technique and feel.
First-place in the Adult division, Taylor Zickefoose sung “It’s You Or No One,” adopting a cute, charming persona, backed by Nick Moore at the piano. Her high, breathy delivery took a somber turn on her second number, “Little Girl Blue,” where she bravely followed the lyrical melancholy down into near-silence, taking the audience with her. This was the most unconventional approach of any singer the entire evening, although the judges—Misha Berson, Jessica Davis, and William Montgomery—obviously responded to it.
After stories and songs from last year’s winners Laura Rosok (High School) and Jennifer Kienzle (Adult) bringing Kobe tales with them, the winners took their plaques, along with this year’s runners-up Maya Hunter (High School) and Janette West (Adult).
A special feature for this evening was a spontaneous one: All former winners in the house, on stage, to sing “All Of Me,” with plenty of improvisation. I counted nine singers. (I may have been off by one or two.) Amazing all the way through—let’s see another round of that next year! (end)
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.