Artist Spotlight: Veronica Swift

This rising vocalist is following the family path—while exploring her own style

Veronica Swift
Veronica Swift

At 25 years old, Veronica Swift possesses the cool confidence of a seasoned performer. Elegant onstage, the up-and-coming vocalist can slide seamlessly from a difficult syncopated rhythm to a wistful love song to a fresh arrangement of an old standard.

Swift’s jazz bona fides were evident from the start. Born in Charlottesville, Va., to renowned pianist Hod O’Brien and acclaimed singer Stephanie Nakasian—both jazz artists—she first appeared at New York’s Jazz Standard with her parents. She recorded two CDs as a child: one at age nine with saxophonist Richie Cole, her father’s rhythm section, and her mother, and one at age 13 with saxophonist Harry Allen. Swift’s first appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center was at age 11, when she performed at the “Women in Jazz” series at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. 

Veronica Swift and Emmet Cohen perform “I’m Hip” on WBGO’s Singers Unlimited

Singing in her high-school choir taught Swift about blending and voice-leading, while playing trumpet in the jazz band taught her about improvisation.

“I noticed that I could actually sing this stuff better than I could play it on trumpet,” she told JazzTimes, “so why don’t I just scat?”

Soon after, Veronica Swift was earning accolades. In the fall of 2015, she won second place at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. In 2016 she was asked to perform a concert of her own at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York City, and she was a guest artist with Michael Feinstein at Jazz at Lincoln Center with the Tedd Firth Big Band, Marilyn Maye, and Freda Payne.

In the summer of 2016 she headlined at the Telluride Jazz Festival, her 10th appearance there but her first as a headliner. She had first appeared there at age 10 with Dave Adams’ Young Razzcals Jazz Project and Richie Cole; later she sang a duet with the featured artist, Paquito D’Rivera. In April 2017 she was booked for a residency at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City. On into 2018, Veronica began touring with her trio, featuring pianist Emmet Cohen, as well as the Benny Green Trio, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Chris Botti, appearing at Jazz Showcase, the Monterey and Montreal Jazz Festivals, two runs at Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai, China, and Marians Jazz Showroom in Bern, Switzerland.

Her 2015 album Lonely Woman features some of the hottest young jazz players on the scene, including Cohen, Benny Benack III, Daryl Johns, Matt Wigler, and Scott Lowrie. Her debut album for Mack Avenue Records, Confessions, is due out on August 30, 2019.

In addition to performing the Great American Songbook and bebop and vocalese classics, Veronica is also a passionate devotee of ’20s and ’30s music and has sung with Vince Giordano, Terry Waldo, and Drew Nugent.

But her musical tastes aren’t limited to jazz alone. Swift cites Marilyn Manson, Freddie Mercury of Queen, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga as some of her biggest influences. She may even cover a couple of Queen songs on her next album.

More on Veronica Swift from JazzTimes

Veronica Swift: Following the Family Route, Exploring Her Own

More on Veronica Swift from Around the Web

www.veronicaswift.com

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