Jazz Impressions of Wonderful Melodies
Vibraphonist Chuck Redd brings his “New York All-Stars” to Easton
By Becca Newell
At just 23 years old, Bebop darling Veronica Swift is rapidly gaining recognition as one of today’s best young jazz singers.
And she’s got the accolades (and awards!) to prove it, including a second-place win at the prestigious 2015 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition and stage credits, like a solo performance at NYC’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center in 2016, followed by a headlining spot at the Telluride Jazz Festival.
“She’s really taken off,” says Al Sikes, Chesapeake Music’s Jazz Committee Chairman (and producer of the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival).
From swingin’ to soulful, Swift’s flawless vocals naturally demonstrate her passion for, and innate understanding of, jazz standards—a talent that translates into mesmerizing performances.
Catch Swift on her rise to the top, when she shares the stage with renowned jazz vibraphonist Chuck Redd on Saturday, May 12th. The show, Jazz Impressions of Wonderful Melodies, takes place at 8 p.m. at the Academy Art Museum in Easton.
The performance promises to be one of Jazz on the Chesapeake’s most interesting and lively shows yet. In addition to Swift’s guest appearance, Jazz Impressions will feature some of New York’s best talent—aptly dubbed for this performance the “New York All-Stars”—pianist Larry Fuller, saxophonist Will Anderson, and bassist David Wong.
A familiar face to fans of the annual Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, Redd is a seasoned performer on the vibraphone and drums. In addition to his musical finesse, Redd is the mastermind behind many of the makeshift ensembles that grace Easton’s jazz scene, often at the behest of Sikes.
According to Sikes, Redd’s ability to seamlessly integrate musicians, who sometimes have little experience playing together, is impressive.
“I tell him I’ve got an open date, we’ll discuss themes, and he’ll pull it together,” he says. “Chuck’s never failed.”
Yet, how do a handful of musicians who’ve barely met produce such a wonderful and seemingly well-rehearsed performance?
“They have a language they share that transcends the technical explanation,” says Sikes, adding that familiarity with the Great American Songbook is key.
Along with jazz fundamentals, another essential element that provides these musicians the ability to perform together with little practice time is jazz’ improvisational nature, explains Sikes.
Still, it remains a marvel to witness on any occasion.
Unlike other Jazz on the Chesapeake concerts, Sikes approached Redd with the suggestion of adding Swift to his “All-Star” lineup.
Sikes first saw Swift perform more than a decade ago, when the then 10-year-old joined her parents—her father, the late bebop pianist Hod O’Brien, and mother, vocalist Stephanie Nakasian—on stage in Western Maryland.
Last summer, he caught a performance of hers in New York, which demonstrated Swift’s mastery of traditional swing and left Sikes determined to bring her to Easton.
And while Redd and Swift have yet to share the stage, Sikes isn’t nervous. If anything, he knows it’ll give to a more exciting, fiery performance.
“The band will swing and the vocalist will soar,” he says. “What a wonderful combination.”
Presented by Jazz on the Chesapeake, a program of Chesapeake Music, Jazz Impressions of Wonderful Melodies will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12th, at the Academy Arts Museum in Easton. General admission tickets are $40. To purchase, call 410-819-0380 or visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com.