Black Sheep: Standing Out From The Crowd

Black Sheep
Black Sheep

BY definition, the term “black sheep” usually refers to an odd or disreputable member of a group, especially within a family. But with the word “sheep” being one of the few words in the English language as both a singular and plural form, one wonders just why an entire flock of talented Saint Lucian musicians would take the bold step of naming their band “Black Sheep”.

But band leader, Rob “Zi” Taylor, has no qualms about the band’s name. Oddly enough, Taylor spent the earlier part of his life growing up on a sheep farm in rural Lancashire, England, where he was born until his parents – both of whom played the guitar and piano – relocated the family to Saint Lucia when Rob was just 11.

Soon after that, Rob enrolled at the Saint Lucia School of Music where he began playing the piano but later gravitated towards the saxophone, studying under master saxophonist, Barbara Cadet. It turns out that Cadet’s influence has had a lasting impact on the dreadlocked saxophonist/singer/songwriter whose musical styles many music lovers have come to appreciate.

“Having Barbara Cadet as my teacher, especially her different styles of teaching, kept me very enthusiastic about music during my teenage years because there were a lot of distractions back then. So that obviously helped and I’m very grateful for that,” Taylor told me during an interview this week.

Ever since getting his first saxophone from his parents as a Christmas present, Taylor has managed to blow his way through a career that has since paid off many dividends. His musical talents are evidenced on the first and second albums released by reggae band, Amaté, which he joined in 1992.

Four years later, he began working on studio albums with Kronic Heights, a dancehall reggae band that included master producer, Francis “Leebo” de Lima, as well as music for Meshach and Itooba. He later formed other musical outfits, including Soulfood and The Vibe Tribe, which saw him showcasing upcoming Saint Lucian talents.

Taylor has also shared stages with the likes of BujuBanton, Beenie Man, Michael Bolton, Fantasia, Beres Hammond and Dave Koz. He has also toured with Ky-Mani Marley, Maxi Priest, Toots & the Maytals and Andrew Tosh.

However, Taylor, who has been filling hearts with his smooth jazzy sounds especially at the annual St. Lucia Jazz for years now, also found time to record and release two CDs of his own, “Rise Up” and “Destiny”. At the inaugural Saint Lucia Music Awards in 2008, he won the award for Instrumental of the Year for “The Calling”.

Image: Rob “Zii” Taylor backing up reggae artiste, Meshach Nestor, at Main Stage Jazz last year. [PHOTO: Stan Bishop]
Rob “Zii” Taylor backing up reggae artiste, Meshach Nestor, at Main Stage Jazz last year. [PHOTO: Stan Bishop]
But it’s his latest band, Black Sheep, that seems to cause Taylor to put whatever musical gains he would have accomplished over an impressive career aside and prove to his fans that there still is some unreleased magic in that shiny saxophone. Teaming up with the other five young talented members, he says, has given new meaning to his music. Just when he was questioning his own survival in the business, he shook off all doubts and decided he had something left to prove. With the band’s energetic and fresh vibe, he says he feels refreshed and renewed.

Formed last October, Black Sheep specializes in a rich and diverse spread of musical genres, such as world, reggae, soul and groove. Despite being relatively new, the band features some of the best rising talents in Saint Lucia, including singer/songwriter/ vocalist, Phyness, the self-described “emotional sheep” of the band. She said working with Taylor has been inspirational, especially since he lets every band member contribute to it’s creative process. Other members include Dwight Florent (guitar), one of Saint Lucia’s best young musical talents.

“Black Sheep is all about standing out from the crowd, going against the grain and not conforming to what everyone else expects,” Taylor said.

That is why so much is riding on the band’s upcoming performances during this year’s Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. Their gigs include Soufriere Jazz (May 1), Sax on the Beach at The Landings (May 2), Fire Grill Jazz (May 3) and Side Stage Jazz at Pigeon Island national Landmark (May 6). The band will also perform a one-night gig in Barbados towards the end of this month. However, feel free to catch up with the band every Friday during Happy Hour from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at The Landings.

Last year, Taylor backed up reggae star, Meshach, who performed with his band, Wevolucian, at Main Stage Friday. Taylor deemed it a stepping stone closer to actually having his own gig at Main Stage someday. A day later, Barbadian saxophonist, Arturo Tappin, known for not letting the stage be his only platform, came into the crowd, approaching Taylor and his family first and serenading them. The gesture proved just how much respect Taylor, one of Saint Lucia’s best, gets not just from his fans at home but also some of the best in his field.

Whatever you do this jazz season, be sure to take in some of the good vibes the Black Sheep flock has in store for its fans. They promise to not pull any wool over your eyes as far as promising and delivering great music to you is concerned.

Stan Bishop began his career in journalism in March 2008 writing freelance for The VOICE newspaper for six weeks before being hired as a part-time journalist there when one of the company’s journalists was overseas on assignment.

Although he was initially told that the job would last only two weeks, he was able to demonstrate such high quality work that the company offered him a permanent job before that fortnight was over. Read full bio...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend