Veronica Swift’s Unconventional Turns

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Veronica Swift is among the 25 artists DownBeat thinks will help shape jazz in the decades to come.

(Photo: Bill Westmoreland )

Singer Veronica Swift returned home from a gig in Italy just in time to celebrate the birthday of her mother, acclaimed jazz singer and educator Stephanie Nakasian.

On Aug. 28 Swift, billed as one of “The Three Divas,” had played a sold-out, socially distanced concert in the Boboli Gardens at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, as part of the Uffizi Galleries’ New Generation Festival. Nakasian’s birthday party was held two evenings later at the family farm in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I’m having an emotional crash after one of the most amazing weeks of my life,” Swift told DownBeat by phone the day of the celebration. The concert was just the kind of spectacle that Swift likes: an eclectic amalgam of opera, jazz, big band, tap dancing and musical theater.

If she was having a tough time coming down from a performance high, though, her phone demeanor belied it. During the interview, she spoke confidently about her album, This Bitter Earth, her second Mack Avenue release, and mused about the new challenges and opportunities that young singers are taking on today. From her poise in discussing these issues, it’s clear that global success rests easily on Swift’s shoulders.

Swift’s star rose surprisingly fast. She first stepped into public awareness with her second-place finish (behind Jazzmeia Horn) in the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Vocals Competition. The following year, she would graduate from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. Relentless gigging followed—in the world’s best jazz clubs, at prestigious jazz festivals, with celebrity-led ensembles. She signed with Mack Avenue and the label released her 2019 album, Confessions, which dazzled audiences and critics alike. All this by the age of 25.

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