Reviews of the 37th Annual NCJF

“It’s a great event—.Think of the benefit it is to Wilmington.” from B (attendee/sponsor)

“Another great Jazz Festival in the books! How it keeps getting better and better each year amazes me——-” from G & B (attendees)

“Congratulation on a successful event!” from S (attendee)

“Thank you for providing such a wonderful weekend for all of us! In an age where most of other Jazz Party attendances are dwindling dangerously it was so nice to look out and see a full room every night!” from R (one of the musicians)

“I had a wonderful time playing and meeting new musicians and also getting a chance to meet with the audience members I am blown away by the attendance and the attitudes of every musician—” from K (another musician)

“Sitting at the airport at 5:30 am is rarely a joyful experience, but I am warmed by the happy memories I have from the past days at the Jazz Festival. What a pleasure and privilege to listen to and make music with all you fine folks.—- NCJF organization, the hotel staff, the teachers and arts funders at schools, I feel much gratitude to all.” J (yet another musician)

Time Warner Cable News

Time Warner Cable News reporter Jessica Nelson shows us how the festival has grown and what organizers are doing to keep jazz alive.


John Ayers
Printed in Tailgate Ramblings – newsletter of the Potomac River Jazz Club

In a past issue of the tailgate, Charles Enlind wrote that since the Chattanooga festival has been discontinued, we should divert our attention to the North Carolina Jazz Festival in Wilmington. With that, I decided to give Wilmington a try.

The venue consists of two nights featuring jazz masters from all over including Australia and piano player from Italy. The musicians play in various combinations with each one leading a group. Every performance was superb, and if any combination was favored over another it was only a matter of personal taste. I have to admit a weakness for Honey Bria.

Besides great music, Wilmington has many charms. The water front cafes and historic homes remind one of “Nawlins” and other coastal cities. I highly recommend Wilmington as an alternative festival. Add them to your calendar for next year!

Our thanks to John Ayers for this unsolicited review, and to Charles Enlind for his recommendation – unfortunately John was not aware of our Thursday night “Special Event” which is a part of the NCJF event.

The 36th Annual NCJF Was A Blast

festicon2On Thursday night, former student volunteer, Sean Crane, came back to play with our “Galen and Friends Gypsy Jazz” group!

Some expected and unexpected highlights at the Patron’s Brunch on Saturday:

The “Bucket Bros.” Logan and Casey Valleroy from Chapel Hill – ages 12 & 15, took masterclasses on Friday and stayed to perform at Saturday’s Patron’s Brunch!
Patron/Photographer George Ball was presented with a token of our appreciation for his ten years of photographing at our festival. Collages of each year were on view at the brunch.


Photo taken by Nathaniel Edgerton

Saturday evening local writer and NCJF 2016 artist, Clyde Edgerton, stated that his “DREAM” was to play with a REAL jazz ensemble – Nate, Herman & Quentin made his “Dream” come true -Clyde played Blue Monk with them!

Go to to view more photos of the entire event.

Review of the NC Jazz Festival 2015 by “Tom the Jazzman” Mallison

The 35th NC JAZZ FESTIVAL opened on Thursday evening, February 5, 2015 with the Benny Hill Quartet in the main ballroom of the waterfront Hilton Hotel with an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd of viewers and listeners. The evening opened with Benny playing which was very reminiscent of the Cannonball Adderley sessions. Benny even looked the part in his statuesque appearance. He played several selections from the Cannonball Adderley catalog, and all were greatly appreciated by the audience. His opening with Autumn Leaves really allowed the quartet to establish themselves with the audience followed by standards like “In A Mellow Tone,” and “Take Five.” Benny has a large following in the local Jazz Community so he was an instant success with the attendees.

Benny Hill was followed by vocalist Molly Ryan along with her husband Dan Levinson on Clarinet and Tenor Sax. They were joined by Kevin Dorn on Drums and Bria Skonberg on Trumpet. Molly’s repertoire lends itself to the hits of the 20’s and 30’s. These selections were popular with those attending Thursday Evening.

To me the real feature of the evening was pianist Rossano Sportiello paying tribute to the late George Shearing. Rossano was joined by Chuck Redd on Drums and Vibes. The pairing of the Keyboard and Vibes really created that Shearing sound. One of the highlights of the set was Shearing’s original composition “Lullaby of Birdland. Nikki Parrott joined Redd and Sportiello on her acoustic Bass. Rosanno has deep classical training which allowed him to move effortlessly between classical and jazz passages in his performance. Rosanno has a very sensitive (light) touch on the keyboard and has the ability to really wrap the audience with his playing.

The opening evening of the Festival was loaded with various styles and influences and offered something for all musical tastes.
Friday and Saturday Nights opened with many of the performers from Thursday evening minus Benny Hill’s Quartet which had another engagement. Ed Polcer on Cornet arranged the various configurations of musicians for both Friday and Saturday evening. Jonathan Russell, Violin was back for his third time and it was amazing to observe his growth and maturity. He and Ed Polcer on several occasions traded licks and Russell was certainly able to hold his own in the situation.

Nikki Parrot and Herman Burney on acoustic bass are two veterans of the Festival and very popular with the audience. Nikki playing bass and singing added an additional dimension to her performance. When Herman was not playing he could be observed taking photos with his Nikon. Adrian Cunningham was back in 2015 playing Alto Sax and Flute this year compared to Tenor Sax previously. He is so accomplished on all of his instruments and plays equally well on the Clarinet. It amazes me how he and Bria can know and play the Book at their young ages and certainly that goes for Jonathan Russell.

A new performer at the Festival was Vincent Gardner on Trombone. Vincent is the first trombonist with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under the leadership of Wynton Marsalis. Vincent paid the attendees a huge compliment when he said he played with the LCJO all over the world and many attendees had no conception of Jazz, but that was certainly different at the NCJF. As he became more familiar with the Festival format and musicians he really became more expressive on the band stand with his playing.

I have not tried to create a laundry list of each player and repeatedly mention them like most already mentioned from Thursday Evening.
Ed Polcer contributed masterfully with his playing and arranging the configurations of the various sets.

It all boils down to a few basics for me. This Festival has been going on for 35 years so something must be right……it is and that is the music. I had friends who drove up from Florida for the first time and they asked me why they had not heard of the NCJF previously? They plan on being back in 2016. As a matter of fact Charlie Byrd’s wife was in attendance for her second year and loved hearing Nate Najar play guitar and especially when he played Charlie’s instrument on Concerto De Aranjuez.

The Festival is casual and you certainly have an opportunity to mingle and talk with the musicians if not renewing previous friendships with them. I hope I will see you there in 2016 as we enjoy the 36th Festival in February.

Creative Programing Highlights 34th NC Jazz Festival at Wilmington

34th Annual NCJF Opens With A Jobim Tribute


The 2014 North Carolina Jazz Festival opened on Thursday evening with the celebrated music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, featuring the vocal presentation of Maucha Adnet. The accompanying tenor sax of Harry Allen made the evening sound and feel like Jobim with Stan Getz. Maucha sang with Jobim for ten years, so it was a great pairing of artists to the benefit of the Hilton Ballroom’s audience! This evening in advance had been most highly anticipated by me, since I had previously heard Maucha and Harry Allen performing Jobim compositions in Pinehurst and at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in New York City. In those performances they were joined by Joe Locke on vibes, Helio Alves on keyboards, and her husband Duduka Da Fonseca on drums.

saxIn the NCJF performance Maucha and Harry were accompanied by Chuck Redd on drums, Nate Najar on guitar, Ehud Asherie on keyboards, and Nicki Parrott on bass. Najar and Ehud were making their first appearance at the NCJF, and they created memorable impressions throughout the evening. Chuck Redd and Nicki Parrott contributed to keeping the time for the session and showed their true professionalism. Harry was right at home with the Jobim music and Adnet. He punctuated the vocals of Maucha throughout the evening.

Maucha Adnet sang many of the selections that are represented on her latest CD on the ZOHO label, Milagre. Maucha, a native of Brazil, really was comfortable with the music and was very well received by the audience. Some of the selections that she performed included Oh, Canatador, Waters of March, Desafinada, Amour Infinito, Milagre, Canto Trieste and April Child.

Maucha sang with such emotion and passion throughout the evening the audience never seemed to be concerned with the Portuguese language. Portuguese is such a beautiful language that you get engrossed with the music and forget about the language differences.

The Tribute to Jobim was a beautiful kick off for the festival. In 2015 the Thursday night kick off will be a Tribute to the music of George Shearing. I hope to see you at the 35th annual North Carolina Jazz Festival!

Courtesy of Tom “The Jazzman” Mallison of