By Sandi Durell
Veronica Swift is on a fast track to stardom in the jazz world now that she’s been taken under the wing of Gianni Valenti at Birdland. The 22 year old plays to oversold houses at the legendary venue scoring her own slot on Saturdays at 6 pm during the month of April, with plans to return.
The recent grad from Miami U is now living in New York City, making her way up the ladder as she plies her style of interpretive sounds to many of the great American standards and slips in some originals along the way.
Coming from a lineage of jazz royalty (Mom – singer/educator/author Stephanie Nakasian and Dad, the late great bebop pianist Hod O’Brien). Veronica is already very much a seasoned professional having listened to the crème de la crème of jazz and practiced her art since a child. As second place 2015 winner of the prestigious Thelonius Monk Jazz Competition, you can hear that beautiful instrument flow effortlessly on every tune it touches.
With Matt Baker on piano, Neal Miner on bass and Darin Douglas on drums, the songs kept swinging and reverberating with Veronica’s own brand of skillful sound, as she riffs and scats on many a tune. It’s always organic and coming from a soulful place of great instincts. From a coy “But Not For Me” (including one of many brilliant solos by Baker on piano), to a realistic story of “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” (parody lyrics) – “there are men of 19 or 20 . . . younger men from Yale or Purdue . . . Daddy, did you know your daughter’s got a lot of livin’ to do.” An homage to Dad – “We’ll Be Together Again” is sad, yet uplifting. She duets with her bass player, sings a Brazilian tune in Portugese and moves into contemporary style with some fusion jazz in “Footprints.” Oscar Brown Jr./Bobby Timmons ‘Dat Dere’ (hey daddy what dat dere . . .can I have dat big elephant over dere) is playful and funfilled.
Special guest Benny Benack III, singer-trumpet stylist, comes aboard to duet with the commanding Ms. Swift on “It’s All Right With Me” as they segue into “Too Darn Hot,” a warm up for Benack before he continues with the impeccable Ann Hampton Callaway up next. Not forgetting the Ella Fitzgerald centennial, Veronica wraps things up with a tribute of “Crazy Rhythm.”
Like a chameleon changing its colors, so does the talented Veronica Swift as she morphs from blues to ballads to swing putting her own unique stamp on each, taking command of the stage and her band with the attitude of an old soul with remarkable instincts in one so young.