Veronica Swift

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Veronica Swift

Metropolitan Room, NYC, August 12, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Veronica Swift

Precociously headlining at ten years of age, and hitting some pretty important marks along the way, 23-year-old Veronica Swift is no doubt destined to take her place among the all-time greats of jazz. Her magnitude is apparent from her opening number, “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” (Bye Bye Birdie). She has a visceral sense of the genre, including a gift for creative tempo changes, precise vocal control, and a take-no-prisoners delivery. For material, much of the set showcased mostly Broadway numbers such as “My Own Best Friend” (Chicago) and a torchy “As Long as He Needs Me” (Oliver!). With “Forget About the Boy” (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Swift demonstrated a remarkable ease, impeccable phrasing and imaginative scatting.

Swift was born to jazz. Her mother is jazz singer Stephanie Nakasian and her father the late jazz pianist Hod O’Brien. She’s also a tap dancer, which informs her sense of rhythm and beat. Add to that a solid vocal range (although she’s most comfortably in the middle of it), with exceptional dynamics, and perceptive storytelling ability. Her set is eclectic and smartly paced, from a jazz waltz “I Feel Pretty” (West Side Story) to a swing “Gypsy in My Soul” to a sumptuous “Interlude” to the demanding vocalese-style “Dat Dere.” Responding to a current political situation in her hometown of Charlottesville, VA, she makes a forceful statement and fiercely sings “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” (South Pacific).

A highlight of the set was an impromptu duet with Nicolas King, another exciting young jazz singer. Reprising (from a summer gig) “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” the two shone with call-and-response interchanges, superb scatting, and a delightful chemistry.

Much of what makes Swift stand head and shoulders above the rest is her no-nonsense approach to the music and respect for it. There’s no artifice to be found anywhere. Her connection to her audience is direct and honest.

Her penultimate number, “No, Not Much,” to the upright bass playing of Ben Rubens, demonstrated the capabilities of a single voice to become an amazing instrument in its own right. Music director/pianist Jon Davis and drummer Scott Lowrie provided intuitive backing, fully in the groove with Swift.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.