Jazzing it up: Veronica Swift, Emmet Cohen Trio to play at PSU

Sultry and refreshing are words that aptly describe Veronica Swift’s vocals. At only 24 years old, she is being recognized throughout the country as one of the premiere young jazz singers on the scene.

The stage at the Center for the Performing Arts (CFPA) at Penn State will be swinging for her upcoming performance with the Emmet Cohen Trio. The concert kicks off the 2018-19 season for the CFPA, with the season’s theme “I am Woman.”

Swift and Emmet Cohen are millennials making names for themselves in jazz and receiving acclaim for their work. Swift for her powerful vocals and Cohen — a former prodigy who began playing the piano at age 3 — for his nimble fingers.

A reviewer for Variety Magazine wrote about Swift, “It’s not often you hear one so young interpret the sounds of a seasoned jazz performer and make everything she touches her own.”

Swift’s playlist is full of timeless music and popular jazz songs. She has built her catalogue on the Great American Songbook, bebop and vocalese classics along with music from the 1920s and 1930s.

“I approach jazz with respect for tradition; that’s the reason why it’s called the golden age. The music has stood the test of time,” Veronica Swift said.

Swift grew up with jazz in her blood. Her parents, Hod O’Brien and Stephanie Nakasian, are renowned in jazz. O’Brien for his piano playing and Nakasian for her singing. The combination of her talented parents playing jazz around her opened her eyes to the music at a young age.

“I wasn’t drawn into it or inspired to do it. For me it’s a lifestyle more than a passion per say. Because of my upbringing — I was the kid in the green room with some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians — I was exposed to this music when I traveled with my parents to gigs. It was like learning a first language, you pick up the lifestyle,” said Swift.

She has toured with her parents and been on stage with many other great jazz names, including Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross.

Most recently, Swift was a staple at New York City’s renowned Birdland jazz club, where Cohen is set to play. The two have known each other for years and their forthcoming performance will be music to the audience’s ears.

“Expect to be mesmerized. These are two of today’s top young jazz performers. For this night, Schwab Auditorium will feel, sound and swing like New York’s Birdland. Pianist Emmet Cohen is a recognized prodigy. It should be a great evening,” said Laura Sullivan, marketing and communications director at the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.

In addition to touring, Swift has been featured on television. Most recently, she performed with the famous jazz man Chris Botti on a PBS special. This past spring she sang on the “Harry Connick, Jr. Show.” She is using her talent and voice to make a name for herself in the clubs and on television.

“Some might say that she is following in the footsteps of the great female jazz vocalists before her, but I see it as walking a new path next to those original footsteps — she’s making her own way but she is surely headed in the same direction,” Sullivan said.

Swift enjoys being on tour and letting others feel the powerfulness of jazz.

“People say the universal language is music, and that’s very true with jazz, the music is relatable,” she said.

She and Cohen will bring that relevance to our backyard for a sparkling evening that is reminiscent of the golden age of jazz.

Sullivan said, “It is an incredible opportunity to live in this region and have access to the best of the best. You don’t have to travel to New York; the lights shine just as brightly right here.”

If you go

What: Veronica Swift with The Emmet Cohen Trio

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20

Where: Schwab Auditorium, University Park

Admission: Adult $38, University Park Student $15, 18 and Younger $28

More information: Visit www.cpa.psu.edu/events/ veronicaswift or call 1-800-ARTS-TIX