Listen to Veronica Swift scat and you’d swear she’s channeling Ella. Cool, calm, confident, and elegant onstage, the 25-year-old can slide seamlessly from a difficult syncopated rhythm to a wistful love song to a fresh arrangement of an old standard. “People ask me, ‘When did you discover that singing jazz was your passion?’” she says. “It’s not a passion, it’s just a way of life. It’s as natural as it could be, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Indeed, this is simply the only life Swift has ever known. Born in Charlottesville, Va., she was raised on jazz. Her father, acclaimed bebop pianist Hod O’Brien, and her mother, vocalist Stephanie Nakasian, toured frequently together, and often brought their daughter along. “I would be sleeping in green rooms in the bass case or in back of the bar with a coloring book, not paying attention to anything,” she recalls, sitting backstage at SFJAZZ in San Francisco after a February performance with trumpeter Chris Botti.