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New albums, new sounds for singers Veronica Swift and Kurt Elling

Singer Kurt Elling releases his second SuperBlue album with guitarist Charlie Hunter in September, 2023.
Dave Stapleton
Missing Piece Group
Singer Kurt Elling releases his second SuperBlue album with guitarist Charlie Hunter in September, 2023.

Both singers Kurt Elling and Veronica Swift have deep knowledge of and respect for the history of jazz. Both also know that the history of jazz is one of pushing the music forward, and both do just that on their upcoming albums.

Elling emerged in the '90s Chicago jazz scene, influenced by vocalese singer Mark Murphy, trumpeter and singer Chet Baker and poet Jack Kerouac. Singing mostly standards with pianist Laurence Hobgood for two decades, Elling began finding his way to his own music based in the foundations of jazz.

Elling first recorded with guitarist Charlie Hunter as a guest on the 2001 album Songs from the Analog Playground. Their album SuperBlue from 2021 brought them together to more fully explore the combination of voice and guitar in a contemporary setting.

Now reunited with Hunter on SuperBlue 2: The Iridescent Spree due September 15, Elling's first single "Not Here/Not Now" was released last month. Over a funky rhythm, Elling brings all his technical skills and his soulful delivery to a sexy and slightly psychedelic song that's fit for the dance floor.

This sequel will include covers of Joni Mitchell's "Black Crow," Juicy J's "Bounce It" and even "Naughty Number Nine" from the Schoolhouse Rock children's television series.

SuperBlue 2: The Iridescent Spree is available for pre-order now, but Elling doesn't arrive to celebrate in the Northwest until October 3 and 4 at Jazz Alley.

Matt Baker

Veronica Swift will in town very soon, though. She's previewing her new album at Jazz Alley on Tuesday, May 16 and Wednesday, May 17. Coming out later this year, TransGenre features her renditions of music by Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, David Bowie and more.

Unlike Elling, unfortunately, Swift hasn't released the first single yet.

Swift is the daughter of jazz pianist Hod O'Brien and singer Stephanie Nakasian, and released her debut album Veronica's House of Jazz when she was just nine years old.

A follow-up album came just four years later, and Swift earned a degree from the University of Miami's Frost School of Music before touring with pianist Benny Green as well as with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

This extensive jazz education formed a foundation for Swift to move well beyond the genre. Hence, her upcoming album TransGenre. Mixing jazz and classical music styles with soul, funk and rock, Swift acknowledges her non-jazz heroes like Janis Joplin, Queen, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix.

Her performance at last year's Monterey Jazz Festival showed a performer blazing her own path, bringing modern energy to jazz and other styles decked out in glam-rock sequins and fringe.

Swift gave some indication of this new direction on her acclaimed 2021 album This Bitter Earth, such as on her dramatic cover of the Dresden Dolls hit "Sing". Perhaps not coincidentally, Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls will be drumming with Swift's band in Seattle next week.

Stay connected to The New Cool on KNKX for the eventual release of Swift's TransGenre and more music from Elling's second SuperBlue album with guitarist Charlie Hunter.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.