Leading international vocalist Veronica Swift announces her third release with Mack Avenue Music; her self-titled album will be available on Vinyl, CD and digitally everywhere on September 15th. Veronica Swift contains multitudes paying homage to greats from Duke Ellington, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and Ludwig van Beethoven to Queen and Nine Inch Nails. Released today, the album’s first single is a glorious rendition of Jerry Herman’s “I Am What I Am,” an LGBTQ+ anthem solidified by Gloria Gaynor’s 1983 rendition.
“I Am What I Am” taken from the Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles ignites the project. The song tells the tale of a protagonist who is proud of who they are and doesn't care if others don't approve. They want to live in a world where they can be themselves and not have to hide or make excuses. Life is only worth living when one can confidently say, "I Am What I Am.” Swift imbues the infectiously swinging tune with unfettered joy, especially when she launches into a sublime scat excursion that segues into a Johann Sebastian Bach-inspired fugue. For Swift, the song becomes a declaration of artistic freedom. With Veronica Swift the emancipation is on.
Swift was raised in Charlottesville, VA in a family of musicians - her father is the late bebop pianist Hod O’Brien and her mother is jazz singer and educator Stephanie Nakasian. Swift recorded her first album “Veronica's House of Jazz” when she was 9 years old and began touring with her parents around that same time. At age 11 she appeared in the Jazz at Lincoln Center series Women in Jazz and went on to continue her studies earning a bachelor’s degree in Jazz Voice at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. After graduation she moved to New York City performing Saturday nights at the legendary club, Birdland. She has continued to record her own material, collaborate and tour with such artists as Chris Botti, Benny Green, Wynton Marsalis, and Michael Feinstein.
Swift describes her new recording as “transgenre.” “I grew up immersed in the culture of jazz music, blessed to have had some of the greats as mentors and I felt a deep familial duty to uphold that tradition,” she continues “But as rooted in jazz as I’ve been, there’s a uniquely visceral power in rock and soul music that’s always fueled my creative passion, and rather than mask or confine that part of my identity, the people I admire most show themselves unabashedly and that’s the kind of tradition I want to be a part of.”
For the album, Swift enlists Brian Viglione of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls as drummer as well as co-producer along with Swift and Mariano Aponte. Also on board is a motley crew of musicians that includes pianist, keyboardist and organist Adam Klipple, pianist and arranger Randy Waldman, guitarists Chris Whiteman and Samson Schmitt, percussionist Luisito Quintero, singer Austin Patterson, violinist and violist Antoine Silverman, violinist Pierre Blanchard, bassists Philip Norris, Alex Claffy, Antonio Licusati and Felix Maldonado, saxophonists Troy Roberts and David Leon, trumpeters Benny Benack III and James Sarno, trombonist Javier Nero, accordionist Ludovic Bier, vocalist Carolynne Framil and woodwindist and orchestrator David Mann.
The project is a love letter to all the artists through time that have inspired Swift and reflects her growing ‘transgenre’ ethos. Selections including the Duke Ellington and Bob Russell classic, “Do Nothing till You Hear From Me,” which Swift recasts as a Mississippi Delta blues burner, Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” where Swift channels her alt-rock sensibilities melding them with stabbing horns and pulverizing bass, before surprisingly blasting off into another sensational scat passage. The album eventually simmers down with Swift’s poignant extrapolation of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” which she underpins with infectious Afro-Cuban rhythms. The song also serves as another example of her ‘transgenre’ concept as she utilizes Nat King Cole’s arrangement of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s aria, "Vest la Giubba" from his opera, Pagliacci. The project wraps deliberately with a wild free-for-all Ramones-esque version of “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” Swift comments on the ‘Funny Girl’ hit stating, “I bookend the album with another queer anthem, I’ll march my band out - I’ll beat my drum which mirrors the lyrics from the first song “I Am What I Am” - I bang my own drum. To me the song has a super punk rock message in the lyrics, which really inspired my interpretation.”
While her first two albums solidified her position in modern jazz, Veronica Swift shows that she’s more than a jazz singer. On this ‘transgenre’ excursion Swift explores French and Italian opera, European classical music, bossa nova, blues, industrial rock, funk, and vaudeville. She pulls the feat off without the results sounding callow or pastiche. Swift’s expansive artistic voice remains firmly intact regardless of genre.
Pre-Save Veronica Swift here.
Veronica Swift Tracklist:
1. I Am What I Am
3. Do Nothing till You Hear from Me
4. The Show Must Go On
5. I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
6. In the Moonlight
7. Severed Heads
8. Je Veux Vivre
9. Chega de Saudade
10. Keep Yourself Alive
11. Don’t Rain On My Parade
Track listing note: Don’t Rain on My Parade does not appear on the Vinyl release, instead is offered as a digital download only. It does appear on the digital and CD versions.
Veronica Swift on Tour
9/1/23 - Mackinac Island Jazz Festival - Mackinac, MI
9/3/23 - Detroit Jazz Festival - Detroit, MI
9/18/23 - The Cabaret - Indianapolis, IN
9/19/23 - The Cabaret - Indianapolis, IN
9/20/23 - Beachland Tavern - Cleveland, OH
9/21/23 - City Winery - Chicago, IL
9/22/23 - The Dakota - Minneapolis, MN
10/12/23 - SFJAZZ Center - San Francisco, CA
10/17/23 - Pepperdine University - Malibu, CA
10/19/23 - Auburn University - Auburn, AL
10/21/23 - Middle C Jazz Club - Charlotte, NC
10/28/23 - Musikhuset Aarhus - Aarhus, DK*
10/29/23 - DR Concert Hall - Copenhagen, DK*
*performing with the Danish Radio Big Band