Monday, March 20, 2017

Pheaturing Veronica Swift and Phile Alum Stephanie Nakasian

Hey, everyone, good morning and welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? Happy technical first day of spring. If you don't already have a fear of flying, you definitely will after hearing this story. Comedian Nicole Byer was not laughing when she got a disgusting surprise while on a recent Delta flight. As Byer unwrapped a blanket provided by the airline, she discover that it has definitely been used before... as toilet paper. Yes. Byer literally discovered human feces in her Delta Airlines-provided blanket. And before you ask... yes, it was one of the blankets that comes pre-wrapped in a bag that is supposed to signify that the linens inside have been properly cleaned and folded. Jokes aside, this is truly so unsanitary. Sure, people often talk about how airplanes are flying tin cans full of germs, but this is next level. Delta did end up responding, but Nicole wasn't buying it. Looks like Delta has some shit to sort out... literally.
During an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," comedian and actor Tim Allen said that being conservative in Hollywood was a lot like living in Germany during the 1930s, "Time" reports. "You’ve gotta be real careful around here," he said, acknowledging his own sheepishness to admit that he attended the inauguration. "You get beat up if don’t believe what everybody believes. This is like ’30s Germany. I don’t know what happened. If you’re not part of the group, 'you know what we believe is right,' I go, 'Well, I might have a problem with that.'" So, in this analogy, as an outsider is Allen saying that he's a persecuted Jew and liberals are Nazis because they're the prevailing majority in Hollywood? Because that is a pretty bad analogy considering that the right harbors a faction of actual Nazis (the Alt Right). Additionally, throwing around references to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust should be avoided for the most part, especially when you're a rich person living in Hollywood. His defensiveness cropped up after giving a meandering answer to whether or not he attended the inauguration. "I was invited, we did a VIP thing for the vets, and went to a veterans ball, so I went to go see Democrats and Republicans," he said, before finally adding, "yeah I went to the inauguration." Well, if you're really ashamed to admit something, maybe that's a sign that what you did was a less-than-honorable thing. Allen currently plays an outspoken conservative on the sitcom "Last Man Standing" and is generally comfortable admitting his right-wing political leanings. But when talking with Kimmel, he seemed a bit nervous and defensive. "I'm not attacking you," Kimmel said, laughing at Allen's long-winded explanation. "I'm a comedian, I like going on both sides," said Allen. But it sounds like he's already determined which side he's on.
Mulan is the next Disney movie in line to get the live-action treatment, but the new version probably won't include everyone's favorite part of the movie: the very badass "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" song and montage. That's because the director, Niki Caro, doesn't plan to include any songs in the updated movie. In an interview with Moviefone she confirmed this update, saying "from what I understand, no songs right now, much to the horror of my children." Beauty and the Beast, the entertainment giant's most recent live-action remake which premiered on March 16th, is a full-fledged musical, but io9 points out that the Cinderella remake from a few years ago didn't include any songs, so this decision isn't entirely earth-shattering. And while this could still change, maybe it's best to not get our hopes up. For now, just pour one out and add "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" to your gym playlist.
A Tennesee woman named Deshania Ferguson posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that pissed her off in a nail salon. The sign read, "Sorry, but if you are overweight, pedicures will be $45 due to service fees for pedicurists. Thank you!" Along with the picture Deshania Ferguson wrote, "Went to get my nails done on Overton Crossing and Frayser Blvd and this is what they have up… so rude," followed by a bunch of angry face emojis. Who even determines who's "overweight"? It's such an arbitrary judgment! Is the salon planning on figuring out the BMIs of its customers? Local news station WREG went to the salon, but the sign had reportedly already been taken down. The owner of the nail salon, Son Nguyen, denied that the Facebook picture had been taken in his salon, even though the walls and floor allegedly matched, saying "[the salon in the photograph] could be anywhere."Nguyen did say, however, that he denies service to anyone "severely overweight," citing the extra work for the manicurists and damage to his chairs. He admits that customers have gotten upset with him over his policy. Really, you don't say.
J.K. Rowling has won numerous awards for the Harry Potter series, but maybe we should consider giving her an award for her sick Twitter burns. Rowling has a history of putting Donald Trump in his place, and now she's done it again. On Friday, a video of Donald Trump meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel went viral after he awkwardly refused to shake her hand. The video quickly went viral, because let's face it, it's awkward AF. Many people on the internet quickly chimed in with commentary on the non-handshake seen 'round the world, but master-of-Twitter-shade J.K. Rowling's caption may have been the winner.

Stay tuned for Donald Trump's 3am tweet storm about the "failing Harry Potter books." ("Boy wizard? SAD!")
Speaking of J.K. Rowling, she has a new Harry Potter book coming out and I have the exclusive title and book cover here.

I bet it's a very good one. I'll wait for the movie. You know, over the years people have made fun of my name calling me "Pervert." Well, there's a lot worse names to have, people.

See what I mean? Hahahaha. CNN has reported what President's Trump next executive order is...

Not the Jedi! Noooo!!! So, have you guys seen the movie Arrival? I haven't yet, but after seeing this pic from it I kinda want to.

A lot of people are on spring break right now and sometimes those times end in compete failure.
Like the guy who trusted someone to rub sunscreen on his back...

It should say "I suck at choosing friends." And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Startling Similarities And Differences Between Donald Trump And The Beast 
5. His shirt temper and erratic behavior tend to alienate others.
4. Though physically hideous, he possesses a kind heart and a good soul.
3. His massive head is matted with an unruly tangle of fur.
2. His only friends are members of his staff, who live in perpetual fear of him.
And the number one similarity or difference between Trump and the Beast is..,
1. He is on a quest for one true love to last a lifetime.

This is a pretty lame Mindphuck. If you spot it let me know. Alright, so, my son and I were recently talking about how we used to watch "Sesame Street" together when he was little. That show has changed quite a bit since he was a kid. Again here's the pheature called...

Bert is starting to regret accommodating Middle East war refugees.

SHOCKING NEWS: Donald Trump is still pissed at Alec Baldwin for playing him on "Saturday Night Live," according to "Entertainment Weekly." In a Fox News interview that previewed the other night, the president was asked to choose from three of his nemeses which one he would "fire." Get it? Because he used to "fire" people on his show "The Apprentice" and now he is the president and has a lot of power and we should all be afraid! LOL! “Chuck Schumer, the president of CNN [Jeff Zucker], and Alec Baldwin. If you had to fire one person right now, who would you fire?” Fox host Jesse Watters asked the president of the United States of America. Trump of course put some serious thought into answering this monumentally important hypothetical question. And... surprise! He wants to fire all three of them. "I think the Alec Baldwin situation is not good," he said. "Chuck I’m very disappointed in, because he’s a guy who should make deals for the people... instead he’s just an obstructionist. So, I’m disappointed in him. And Jeff Zucker, I mean, I got him the job. And CNN is just, you know, fake news." He continued: "who would I say? I just, I don’t want to say, but I will say I’m disappointed in all three. I think the portrayal of me is ridiculous." Trump has made no secret of the fact that he has a huge chip on his shoulder over Alec Baldwin's portrayal of him on "Saturday Night Live." But luckily for Donald Trump, Baldwin might not be doing the impression for much longer. Because as they say in comedy, you only roast the ones you love. And Alec Baldwin loves Donald Trump like I love going to Wawa craving their mashed potatoes and they are out.

The 58th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Phile Alum and author will be a guest on the Phile a week from today... next Monday.

Bracketology refers to the rigorous scientific process of "throwing some upsets" into your otherwise cookie-cutter NCAA tournament bracket.

This is pretty cool... today's pheatured guest is a jazz singer who has a new CD out called "Lonely Woman." She is joined by her mom, and Phile Alum here and I think it's pretty cool. Please welcome to the Phile Veronica Swift and back to the Phile... Stephanie Nakasian.

Me: Hello, ladies. Steph, welcome back to the Phile... Veronica, welcome to the Phile. How are you both?

Stephanie: As well as can be expected trying to re-define our lives without Hod.

Me: So, I have to mention Hod O'Brien... your husband and father who I was honored to interview for the Phile. I was so sorry to hear he passed away back in November. He was an amazing talent and I am sure even a better family man. I lost both of my parents from cancer in 2000 so I know what you went through and are going through. My dad was a musician but I have no musical ability except the kazoo but you two both have amazing talent as well and got to perform with Hod and record with him. Those are memories you both will share forever, right?

Stephanie: So many great performance moments. Hod and I went to 13 countries, 10 islands, 33 states... amazing especially all the touring with Veronica with us... as a family on stage... since she was 9. He was a humble, sweet, caring man... never made a call for a gig... just practiced and honed his craft and composed great music.

Me: And you're doing okay, Veronica?

Veronica: It’s been a whirlwind of ups and downs after having graduated and lost my father, and now moving to NYC and starting my string of steady gigs. I’d say all in all I'm in a good place.
Me: Stephanie, you met Hod in the 80s... it was jazz music that brought you guys together, right? 

Stephanie: Well, both our families lived in Charlottesville, Virginia... I was a banker at the time in New York... I went to hear him play at Gregory's not far from where I lived in New York. He taught me jazz.

Me: When you had Veronica did you know she was gonna have an amazing talent in her own right? 

Stephanie: Pretty soon... she was hearing sounds... all sorts of sounds and picked up language and music right away... was composing songs at a young age. Two songs she wrote at 3 or 4-years-old Hod recorded... "Kingdom Song" and "Good Guy Bad Guy." Amazing she was on stage with us and on her own at 9... recorded first CD at 9 with Richie Cole then 13 with Harry Allen, etc.

Me: Veronica, how old were you when you started to sing?

Veronica: I was 9-years-old when I started appearing professionally on major stages and festivals. I toured not only with my parents but a youth jazz band I played trumpet in as well called the Young Razzcals Jazz Project led by Dave Adams. He gave me the opportunity to record, tour, and perform with revered artists at the Telluride Jazz Festival which yielded many other opportunities to come.

Me: Do you remember your first album when you were nine? What was it called?

Veronica: Yes, that album is called “Veronica’s House of Jazz” and there is a collection of vocals classics like "Twisted" as well as a couple tunes that fit a child of that age like “I Like to Fuss” from the childrens’ comedic song compilation album by Sandra Boynton and Michael Ford. This album not only is really hip I feel, but is perfect when introducing jazz to children and I still use these albums when teaching young children to sing and scat.

Me: I actually found the cover of the CD on-line but didn't know it was your first one... or what it was.

Me: Awe. Stephanie, you are a teacher, right? At University of Virginia? What do you teach again?

Stephanie: I am a voice instructor at UVA in Charlottesville near where we live and at the college of William and Mary in Williamsburg... teaching non-classical voice students... about 40 per semester... mostly astrophysicists, lawyers, doctors etc, not music majors. They're great young people and a lot of good singers... also have two books I wrote... one on jazz and one on singing... and do workshops around the world and at music conferences (20 states).

Me: The first time you were where was when one of your books was on the Phile's Book Club I believe. Veronica, did your mom teach you or did you go to other classes?

Veronica: When it comes to jazz voice I never took lessons from my parents or anyone else. Really as a singer the more important skills are harmony and ear training. This I got form my trumpet lessons with John D’Earth. There was also opera training in my high school years which I thank for my ability to sing for days on end without fatigue. But in all honesty, listening to and transcribing the great instrumentalists is the best form of lessons, as this is how the great singers (such as Anita O’Day and Ella) learned.

Me: What music did you listen to growing up? I am sure you were surrounded by jazz growing up. 

Veronica: I believe the mere exposure as a baby was largely responsible for my picking up bebop language very much how you learn to speak your first language (copying the sounds you hear and listening to your family speaking to you). But my own interests in jazz didn't appear till much later, as a child I was mostly listening to classical music. To me, Bach Debussy and Stravinsky were most other kids’ Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.

Me: Did you both like the same music? Is there anybody either of you like but the other doesn't?

Stephanie: Ha... we do like the same music... DNA maybe. I'm not as into the heavy metal stuff but i'm an old fart now... it's pretty good stuff she's doing in that genre... very musical... just loud. I'm actually not an opera person... she adores it we pick the same tunes alot and she has decided to perform many songs I have recorded.

Me: You like heavy metal, Veronica?

Veronica: As I went through my years at University of Miami, I started to gravitate towards the dramatics and theatrical genre of Hard Rock (ala Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson). I would say that even though my mother understands how I would love this style, she herself is not a fan, just because of the screaming. But to me, jazz is an art of subtlety and I don’t get to let out my dramatic side when performing jazz. So I wrote a rock opera which mixes the styles of metal and opera (both very dramatic musical styles). This allows me to stay sane and balanced, and I would like this opera to be performed on stage or in film.

Me: My son is a big Alice Cooper fan. It's cool you like rock music.

Veronica: I idolize the theatrical finesse and heaviness of Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson. Luckily, I had a manager interested in my rock project who managed Manson in the 90s when he lived in Miami. Thanks to John Tovar I got to meet Manson and hang with him for a night and all we did was talk about metaphysics, romantic poets, and he really showed interest in my project. I hope to have him as part of my opera.

Me: Veronica, did you read the interviews I did with your parents for the Phile? Your mom always talked about you.

Veronica: No, I haven’t, why don't you send them to me, I would love to read them!

Me: I will. Steph, you're very proud of your daughter, right?

Stephanie: Of course... she's amazing... talented and grounded... kind to people and wise for her years she's always creating... that's what I love and she's a great storyteller. That's what makes her strong on stage.

Me: Veronica, you mentioned you went to University of Miami which your mom told me. Go Canes! It's all about the U!! Did you have a good time time?

Veronica: Well, I had a mixed experience. Without going into detail I was very lucky to have some of the best teachers like John Hart, Larry Lapin, and Whit Sidener. I was placed in instrumental ensembles where I got to use my voice not just as a singer would use the voice. I was a horn, and that's where I really got to challenge myself. Through the University Shelly Berg brought such amazing opportunities and I feel extremely blessed to have had him as a part of my education, and now professional career. But it was extremely difficult to manage my career and school life, this brought tension amongst other professors. Not to mention I lacked a social life.

Me: Did you graduate? What was your major?

Veronica: I graduated December 2016 with a Bachelor of Music.

Me: So, where are you living now?

Veronica: After I graduated I moved in with my mom to support her at this hard time without dad, while at the same time also looking for NYC apartments (a daunting task). But I found one, the perfect spot on 157 and Broadway and I move in March 26th.

Me: Very cool!!! I think it's cool you both perform shows together... you both seem so close. Is there anything you ever disagree with?

Veronica: I don’t think so. We just play our tunes and swing hard. What else is there? Stephanie: Sure... she's 22... ha! But we have a great relationship I treasure it... especially now that Hod is gone. She is his legacy and I get him through her.

Me: Okay, let's talk about "Lonely Woman." First of, I don't think you are lonely. Why that album title?

Veronica: Well, the life of a touring musician is very much lonely. Half the time I'm in a hotel room by myself and working on charts (if I’m not already working on charts at my home). And as I mentioned before, I sort of lack a social life. Each minute I am actively seeking my next goal and thinking about the hustle, booking, practicing, and more and more it seems there’s no time for anything social.

Me: Are their all originals on the album?

Veronica: There is one original. The tune is called "Bisky," and it was my first jazz original. I like to include an original on each record of mine. 

Me: How did you chose which songs to record? 

Veronica: Since this was my first record as a more mature young musician (compared to my first two... age nine and thirteen, I wanted to include a plethora of jazz styles. I included my favorite vocalese “Room 608/The Opener” (Horace Sivler/Jon Hendricks). I wanted to pay homage to my favorite Composer... Cole Porter, and had a number of his tunes on there. Also I wanted to honor one of my favorite singers- June Christy... and sing a couple numbers she liked to do, with my own flair. “Lonely Woman” (the title track) is probably the most intimate song and Emmet Cohen really sings on the keys on that number. 

Me: So, did you hand pick the band for the album?

Veronica: Yes, and these were cats I played with as a high school Veronica. Daryl and Matt especially have been there from the beginning. It was like having my family (and I didn't have my family on this record). 

Me: It's cool both your parents are on the album with you. Was that our idea? 

Veronica: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Me: Steph, your last album was "If I Ruled the World"? 

Stephanie: My last album was "Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World" recorded with a great pianist from Williamsburg, Harris Simon, Chris Bridge on bass and the wonderful Billy Williams on drums... it's a very good CD if I do say so myself.

Me: Are you working on another album?

Stephanie: No, busy producing for Veronica... she's going to record a funk CD in June. I'll do another when the spirit moves me. Right now i'm just trying to regain my footing after being caregiver for Hod for 1 1/2 years... helping him through cancer, touring, writing his book, seeing his old friends. My my turn now... I'll figure it out... when I do I'll tell you. I am working in Charlottesville with guitarist Randy Johnston who now lives there... he's great and is taking me in new directions.

Me: Do you have a lot of recordings that Hod did that weren't released?

Stephanie: Possibly... our friend Joop in Holland says he has some. That 1986 recording was one Hod loved and hoped it could be on CD... so I was helping to help him realize that dream before he died.

Me: Veronica, so you have a boyfriend? What does he think of your music?

Veronica: I don't date.

Me: So, what's next for you two?

Veronica: Well, I can’t speak for my mother, but at this time it is important that we sort of reset our professional clocks since so much of our career had centered around the family band. But I need to focus on my weekly gig at Birdland and start to think as a professional adult and merely survive. 

Stephanie: Kitano March 25th as Double Vision... can't wait with Tardo Hammer Trio... Paul Gill and Andy Watson.

Me: Veronica, did you do a lot of musical theater in the school?

Veronica: I didn't in high school, but in college it was very difficult to fit it in my schedule. I hope to take part in musical theater in my professional endeavors as well.

Me: What musicals did you do?

Veronica: I was in "Seussical," "West Side Story," "Beauty and the Beast," "Phantom of the Opera," "Avenue Q." As one of the few dancers in high school I was mainly cast in the featured dance roles. Never a singing role. HA! Can you believe that?

Me: Didn't you do "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"? Who did you play?

Veronica: I did take part in the annual "Rocky Horror Picture Show" shadow cast production, and I was cast as Dr. Frank N. Furter four years in a row. Man, how I will miss that! My claim to fame.

Me: I am so glad to have you both on the Phile. Will you both come back again soon?

Stephanie: Anytime.

Veronica: Of course, whenever you’ll have us! I’m sure that by next year, a LOT will transpire and that it would be interesting to document the change.

Me: Cool. Mention your website and anything else you want. All the best, continued success, you two. Don't ever stop singing!!!

Stephanie: Never!

Veronica: Besides jazz singing, I also write musicals and one particular one I will bring into my jazz show and record the songs form that. Keep a look out! You can see what I'm up to and where I’m playing and reserve tickets to my shows at and make sure to check out my Twitter VSwiftjazz, and Instagram @VeronicaSwift. It’s not in the cards to stop singing.

Me: Great! It's so great to have you both here, ladies.

Stephanie: Thank you, Jason. Hope some of your readers will come to Kitano to hear our mother-daughter act or check out other performances scheduled on websites and Veronica will be at Birdland in NYC every Saturday in April except the 15th at 6pm... come and hang and introduce yourselves to us. Ciao, keep swinging!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Veronica and Stephanie for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Monday with Phile Alum and author Jeremy Croston. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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