Veronica Swift on her 54th straight show with Chris Botti
Jeff Rupert With Veronica Swift
Let's Sail Away
Many New Yorkers have been learning quickly who Veronica Swift is - currently on her 54th straight show with Chris Botti, she is at Blue Note NY with Chris Botti until January 7th at his 13th Annual Residency.
When not on tour Veronica has a residency at Birdland NY.
Veronica Swift is the daughter of pianist Hod O'Brien, jazz vocalist Stephanie Nakasian and Swift (her stage name) is a 2nd place winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Competition.
A Few Early Reviews:
Refreshingly unconventional vocalist backed by a swingin' ensemble.
-Bonnie Gollhofer, KBUT Crested Butte CO. (Editors Pick)
This is a first rate ear opener where all anybody knows how to do is play it hot, even when laying back. HIgh octane stuff that'll easily get you to shift your gears into high.
-Chris Spector, Midwest Record
Full of surprised and sperb musicianship. The latter word applie to Swift, who not only sings superbly, but is a complete musician and can be heard on her wordless vocals, scat interludes and writing of vocaliseslyrics fora couple of tunes. An impressive outing from all involved.
-Joseph Lang, Jersey Jazz
Vocalist extraordinaire Veronica Swift is a musical set that ranks with the best I have ever heard. The communication reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald dueling wqith Roy Eldridge (or insert your horn player of choice). With its terrific variety and fabulous performances, this release is exquisite from beginning to end.
-Dave Rogers, WTJU 91.1 FM & 102.9 Richmond VA.
Swift has a rich, confident and wide ranging voice, and teams it up like Jordan and Pippin with the Getz-sounding tenor of Jeff Rupert. Swift carries a hint of O'Day's clarity and timing and Vaughn's swooping drama on pieces like the playful "Pennies From Heaven."
-George Harris, Jazzweekly
Saxophonist Jeff Rupert has performing and recording credits that include associations with Diane Schuur, Mel Tormé, Kevin Mahogany, Ernestine Anderson, and Benny Carter’s Grammy winning Harlem Renaissance. Jeff Rupert toured for fifteen years with Sam Rivers; four albums ensued, and from 1997- 2002 he toured and recorded with Maynard Ferguson. Jeff Rupert’s six recordings as a leader all charted on Jazz Week. Do That Again! was #39 out of the top 100 jazz albums of 2014, and En Plein Air: The Jazz Professors play Monet charted on Jazz Week to #29. Performance venues include the Blue Note, Birdland, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Tokyo Forum, the National concert hall of Taipei, Taiwan, and jazz festivals in Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Rupert’s latest release Imagination is a collaboration with pianist Richard Drexler, and rose to #8 on the CMJ and RMR jazz charts. As a composer and arranger, Rupert has written for Bob Berg, James Moody, Maynard Ferguson, Kenny Drew Jr, Kevin Mahogany and Judy Carmichael. Rupert has produced four big band albums for the Flying Horse Big Band, which enjoyed 15 weeks on the jazz charts, all featuring original compositions and arrangements. Rupert is Pegasus Professor, Trustee Endowed Chair, and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Central Florida (UCF), and founder of Flying Horse Records.
Richard Drexler is a pianist, bassist, vocalist and composer/arranger from Bloomington-Normal Illinois, and has resided in central Florida since 1985. He has performed on 200 recordings; piano in the Woody Herman Orchestra for over 20 years, bass in trios of Kenny Drew Jr., Dick Hyman and others. Richard has toured for 16 years as pianist with electric bassist Jeff Berlin, and regularly performs in eleven orchestras on seven instruments, and in diverse settings as a featured soloist with Cheap Trick, and Saigon Kick. Richard has performed with Mose Allison, Karrin Allyson, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Diahann Carroll, Vic Damone, Dena DeRose, Donovan, Bob Dorough, Connie Francis, Amy Grant, Al Jarreau, Frankie Laine, Kevin Mahogany, Idina Menzel, Mark Murphy, Freda Payne, Bernadette Peters, Mel Torme’ and more. Richard is profiled in The New Face of Jazz, a Billboard (Random House) book by Cicily Janus with forewords by jazz legends Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Miller and Sonny Rollins, and has played with 40 of the other 100 featured players. Drexler is a faculty member at the University of Central Florida’s acclaimed jazz studies program. Richard holds a MM degree from UCF in composition.
Drummer, Marty Morell was a member of the Bill Evans Trio for seven years. A highly inventive player, capable of both great subtlety and fiery dynamics. Morell attended the Manhattan School of Music and studied mallets with Morris Goldberg, and tympani with Saul Goodman at the Julliard School of Music.
Vocalist Veronica Swift, age 23, is now being recognized around the country as one of the top young jazz singers on the scene. In the fall of 2015, she won second place at the prestigious Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. In April of 2016, she was a guest artist with Michael Feinstein at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. Veronica’s first appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center was at age 11 for “Women in Jazz” series at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.
[Sincere jazz musicians] aim at excellence and apparently nothing else. They are hard to buy and if bought they either backslide into honesty or lose the respect of their peers. And this is the loss that terrifies them. In any other field of American life, great reward can be used to cover the loss of honesty, but not with jazz players–a slip is known and recognized instantly. And further, while there may be some jealousies, they do not compare with those in other professions. Let a filthy kid, unknown, unheard of and unbacked sit in–and if he can do it–
he is recognized and accepted instantly. Do you know of any other field where this is true?
JOHN STEINBECK in Eddie Condon’s Scrapbook of Jazz (foreword)
The Steinbeck quote came to mind while recording this album (in the middle of a tour with this great band). The age span of the group covers fifty years, from jazz luminary Marty Morell to relative newcomer Veronica Swift. As Steinbeck opines, none of this matters in jazz as long as you can hang. I’ve worked with Richard Drexler and Marty for decades and with Charlie Silva off and on for the same period. Veronica and I have been collaborating now for three years. The common thread is swinging music, a nod to the rich jazz tradition and the joie de vivre.
For this band, the music comes to fruition without much verbal communication; the direction lies within the music itself. I am drawn to performers who hear deeply and draw on their intuition to “tell a story.”
Veronica hails from a jazz family. Her dad was jazz pianist Hod O’Brien (from Oscar Pettiford’s band and associations with Art Farmer and Chet Baker), and her talented mom is the well-known jazz vocalist Stephanie Nakasian.
You’ll notice that several of the selections have no lyrics. Veronica has deep roots as a jazz singer and understands the synergy of music and vocals. When called for on this record, she performs essentially as another horn player.
Richard and Marty have a keen sense of artistry, and we share a close working relationship. Dan Miller, Christian Herrera and Saul Dautch join the band for a jazz adaptation of the Gershwin classic Rhapsody in Blue. Dan is a seasoned jazz musician, having spent years with Harry Connick, Jr., Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson and Tom Jones. Saul and Christian, students in the jazz program at the University of Central Florida, are filled with promise.
Pernod, composed by Johnny Mandel, is a fun piece that keeps musicians on their toes. This performance exemplifies the collaborative nature of the band.
Let’s Sail Away is a piece I wrote in the early ‘90s, originally called Looe Key. I added lyrics for Veronica to sing.
This iteration of Pennies from Heaven stems from the classic Oscar Peterson/Stan Getz recording. Veronica, Richard and I were talking about that great recording after playing a jazz festival. During breakfast the next morning, Richard sat at the piano playing Stan Getz’s solo. Veronica had written lyrics the night before and joined in. Her vocalese is marvelous!
Ginza Samba is composed by Vince Guaraldi, the pianist widely known for his soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is another piece where the vocal role is that of a horn player. While I was distilling the repertoire for this album, Veronica insisted we record it. Her performance captures her essence as a jazz singer.
Beauty Becomes Her is a piece I wrote last year. I asked Veronica to add lyrics, and in doing so she demonstrated her prowess. I believe the band’s enjoyment shines through on this track.
Rhapsody in Blue is perhaps Gershwin’s most famous large-scale work. This arrangement was commissioned by the Celebration Foundation of Celebration, Florida. Given free rein, I drew from Billy Strayhorn’s adaption for the Duke Ellington band, adding a section with nods to Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Benny Golson, artists deeply rooted in the blues.
Home Blues is from Gershwin’s An American in Paris. This melodic statement is found in the middle of the original work. It appears with an additional verse here–a nice touch.
Vou Deitar e Rolar / Aviso Aos Navegantes was arranged by Veronica. It’s a wonderful vehicle for the band.
My Mistress’ Eyes is an original composed around the Shakespearean sonnet of the same name. I wrote it a few years back for a show called Shakespeare Swings! performed at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando.
As for Dream a Little Dream of Me, I’ve always been attracted to the lyric and the modulation on the bridge. Veronica sings it as if it was her own tune.