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Young jazz singer draws on her inner bop

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Veronica Swift was born with jazz in her blood. It sounds like singing in the genre comes as natural to her as breathing.

Swift, the 22-year-old daughter of singer Stephanie Nakasian and the late bebop pianist Hod O'Brien, was first runner-up in 2015's prestigious Thelonious Monk International Vocal Competition. She graduated last month from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music with a Bachelor in Music, majoring in jazz voice.

On Friday, January 24, she shared her artistry with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet at Fort Myers' Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. The event drew a sellout crowd of about 400.

The evening felt like a throwback to the finest 1950s vocal jazz, as Swift, stylish in a slinky black dress, white gloves and pearls, channeled the spirits of June Christy and Anita O'Day. She brought her own spirited, bebopping interpretations to the music, with the quintet adding both solid support and excellent solos at every turn.

Swift's interpretation of “September in the Rain" included a vocalese segment in which she put words to tenor saxophonist Lester Young's recorded solo. She also excelled on “Gone For The Day," which Bob Cooper wrote for Christy.

Swift performed Pete Rugolo's “Interlude" with just the band's rhythm section- pianist Joe Delaney, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Tony Vigilante. In the second set, she sang Rugolo's “Lonely Woman," a Stan Kenton Orchestra classic recorded by Christy. With just piano backing, Swift and Delaney captured its mood with aching delicacy.

There were several more treats:
  • Her version of “Darn That Dream" included a vocal version of a trombone solo that was uncanny, complete with slide movements with her right hand.
  • Playful takes on Dizzy Gillespie's “He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped" and “Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby."
  • A seamless medley of two other Christy-recorded classics “Thanks For You" and “We'll Be Together Again."
Other material included “You Don't Know What Love Is," Gillespie's classic “A Night in Tunisia" and Jobim's bossa nova “Corcovado." Swift ended the evening with an encore: “Let's Fall In Love" was perfect, because the audience by this time had fallen in love with her presence, poise and sheer musicality.

Swift will be back in the area on Sunday, March 19 for a South County Jazz Club concert with the University of Central Florida's Jazz Professors band (Jeff Rupert-sax, Richard Drexler-piano, Marty Morrell-drums and Ben Kramer-bass. It's at 2:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
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