Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Have chops, will travel

Rising-star jazz singer Veronica Swift is quite the traveler.

She disembarked from The Jazz Cruise on Saturday, January 26 in Fort Lauderdale. Her Sunday afternoon gig was a mere 200 miles away in Sarasota, a relatively short three-hour journey across Alligator Alley and up Interstate 75.

Veronica Swift
But she took a different, 5,200-mile, route. Swift hopped a plane to Los Angeles, performed Saturday night with trumpeter Chris Botti, then took a red-eye flight back to Florida for her matinee performance with the Jeff Rupert quartet. She was jet lagged and ship lagged, but not at all jazz lagged.

“It feels like I’m coming home, because these guys are like family,” Swift said. The South County Jazz Club performance at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center teamed her with Rupert, pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer and drummer Marty Morell.

Together they dug into a wide range of material, including a bit of Brazilian jazz (“Baia” from the Charlie Byrd/Stan Getz 1962 Jazz Samba bossa nova collaboration), the Pete Rugolo-arranged June Christy hit “Interlude” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Ginza Samba,” and several Rupert originals, including one with lyrics by Swift.
Veronica Swift, Jeff Rupert

Their takes on “September in the Rain,” “Pennies From Heaven” and Sidney Bechet’s “Strollin’ on the Champs Elysées” were excellent showcases for Swift’s vocal techniques. She sings with perfect pitch, she writes and delivers vocalese lyrics to classic horn solos, scats with great musical skill, and emulates instruments to trade phrases with the other players. On this day, she delivered bass sounds in her back-and-forth with Kramer, and then became a trombonist mixing it up with Rupert’s tenor work on the Bechet tune.

Swift has a musical maturity well beyond her 24 years, thanks in large measure to her foundation. The daughter of late jazz pianist Hod O’Brien and singer Stephanie Nakasian began performing with her family – and others – before she was 10.

The second-place finisher  in 2015’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition and two years out of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, she’s now based in New York City but lives out of her suitcase in large measure.

After the Glenridge, she was headed to Miami to record a non-jazz project for four days, then off to Arizona for several concerts with Botti’s band, followed by a two-month tour with pianist Benny Green’s trio. Ah, to be young with boundless musical energy.
Richard Drexler, Veronica Swift Jeff Rupert, Ben Kramer, Marty Morell

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