Jazz singer Veronica Swift to make Penn State debut
UNIVERSITY PARK — Veronica Swift, a jazz singer whose repertoire is built on the Great American Songbook, plus bebop and vocalese classics, will open the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State 2018-19 season with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20, in Schwab Auditorium. The Emmet Cohen Trio will back the singer.
Before graduating from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music in 2016, the Virginia native had already taken second place (2015) in the influential Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. She also had previously recorded three albums (two by age 13), headlined the Telluride Jazz Festival and performed in Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center.
Swift, who moved to New York City after college, sings most Saturday nights at the renowned Birdland jazz club. She also has appeared on stage with Jon Hendricks, Esperanza Spalding, Joe Lovano, Danilo Perez, Chris Botti and others.
“She performs jazz standards with an accomplished style that belies her age and has an engaging presence with the audience,” said Center for the Performing Arts Director George Trudeau, who attended a concert by the singer at Birdland earlier this year.
Swift’s affinity for jazz is bundled in her DNA. Her parents, jazz singer and educator Stephanie Nakasian and the late jazz pianist Hod O’Brien, took her on tour when she was a child. She sang with her family at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., the Jazz Standard in New York City, The Great Waters Music Festival in New Hampshire and other venues.
“It’s not often you hear one so young interpret the sounds of a seasoned jazz performer and make everything she touches her own,” wrote a reviewer for Variety. “That’s Veronica Swift.” The vocalist is “an adept lyrical interpreter” who puts on “a master class on space and dynamics,” according to a JazzTimes writer.
Swift’s 2015 album, “Lonely Woman,” features some of the hottest young players in jazz, including Cohen, Benny Benack III, Daryl Johns, Matt Wigler, and Scott Lowrie. “Let’s Sail Away,” her 2017 recording with saxophonist Jeff Rupert, includes a mix of originals and standards.
Cohen, a powerful and charismatic performer, is a former prodigy who began playing piano at age 3. His “nimble touch, measured stride and warm harmonic vocabulary indicate he’s above any convoluted technical showmanship,” wrote a reviewer for DownBeat.
The pianist, who has a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music and a bachelor’s from the University of Miami, won the American Jazz Pianists competition in 2014 and was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition in 2011.
In addition to leading The Emmet Cohen Trio, he is a member of Christian McBride’s trio Tip City, the Ali Jackson Trio and the Herlin Riley Quartet. He also performs regularly with Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Cobb, Jimmy Heath, Kurt Elling and others.