It is almost impossible to put into words the excitement that filled the Kaufmann Concert Hall at the 92nd Street Y on July 13 as the dynamo named Veronica Swift put on an amazing display of her seemingly limitless talent, vocal prowess, and imagination. She shared the spotlight with the tap/swing dancer Caleb Teicher who performed in solo and in partnership with six other nimble-footed dancers, all backed by a quintet featuring trumpeter James Sarno, tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts, pianist Steven Feifke, bassist Ben Tiberio, and drummer Brian Iviglione.
Swift opened on a quiet note with an original ballad titled “If Only Someday (Why Not Now).” She then turned to a tune that’s been in her repertoire since she started singing professionally at the age of nine, “Four.” Teicher joined her, thriving on the rhythm she created, as she took an oh so hip journey to the land of bop, scat, and vocalese.
As the evening progressed, Swift mixed some strictly vocal numbers with pieces where she was accompanied by dancers in different combinations. Her solo numbers included “In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee,” “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” “Prisoner of Love”, and a song, “I Am What I Am”, that has just been released as a single from her upcoming album. It’s a song that was the closer for Act I of the theater musical La Cage aux Folles, an anthemic statement from the star of popular drag show in Saint-Tropez. It has become a much-recorded song often referred to as a “gay anthem”. Swift presents it as a general statement of taking pride in who you are, but she does it in a way that no one has previously attempted – as a bebop tune that starts out with an exciting opening scat interlude. It surely whetted the appetite among the listeners for the entirety of the new album.
Each number that included the dancers offered something different. Swift started “Getting to Know You” as a waltz, but it evolved into a swing tempo with a dance duo joining the proceedings. A raucous take on “Guess Who’s in Town” found four pairs of feet on the scene adding to the festivities. Swift went to her 2019 album, Confessions, for the Dave Frishberg delight “A Little Taste” with a pair of dancing feet along for the ride. Swift showed that she also has a talent for tap dancing as she joined Teicher for some fancy footwork on “Pick Yourself Up.” When she launched into “Crazy Rhythm,” it was time for some Lindy Hop activity with the dance company strutting its stuff.
Teicher was front and center for one tap solo and also took a seat at the piano where he addressed two songs by Barry Harris, “The Can Song,” adding his own vocal, then providing the piano accompaniment for Swift on “The Breeze Song.” Throughout the evening, the band proved to be well suited to the variety of rhythms that marked this eclectic evening of song.
For the finale, it was all hands on deck for a joyful take on the Bobby Timmons jazz classic “Moanin’,” bringing the concert to a robust conclusion that had the audience cheering enthusiastically. Swift is what she is, and what she is is terrific!—JOE LANG
CALEB TEICHER PHOTO BY GRACE KATHRYN LANDEFELD