The jazzy sound downtown

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lumina News file photo 

David Sager, Chuck Redd, Bria Skonberg and Adrian Cunningham perform at the Wilmington Hilton Riverside on Feb. 9, 2013 during the North Carolina Jazz Festival.

The sounds of international jazz artists will take over the Hilton Wilmington Riverside for the 34th edition of the North Carolina Jazz Festival, continuing a tradition that was founded by Dr. Harry VanVelsor in 1980. 

Current North Carolina Jazz Festival President Sandy Evans said the festival has earned a good reputation among the jazz community in those 34 years, and she rarely has issues finding talented artists to perform. 

“This sounds like I’m bragging, but I have never been turned down,” Evans said. 

Although the festival began with a strict limit to traditional jazz, Evans said the Thursday night performances are now dedicated to alternative types of jazz. Kicking off the festival on Thursday, Feb. 6, will be an international ensemble cast dedicated to honoring the music of Brazilian jazz musician Antonio Carlos Jobim. The lineup of players for that tribute includes the Brazilian singer Maucha Adnet, who performed with Jobim for 10 years. Providing the instrumental accompaniment will be New York’s Harry Allen on saxophone, Israel’s Ehud Asherie on piano, Florida’s Nate Najar on guitar, Australia’s Nicki Parrott on upright bass and Maryland’s Chuck Redd on drums. 

Local jazz pianist Grenaldo Frazier will take over for the second set of the evening on Thursday and perform his take on Louie Armstrong’s work. 

Like the musicians themselves, Evans said the festival audience is usually diverse and that each night’s events sell out. 

“They come from all across the country and Canada,” she said. “This is really good for Wilmington too because it brings in people from all across the country and a lot of them come back every year. These people follow their favorite jazz artists around.”

The programs for Friday and Saturday evening will consist of four and one-half hour concerts each night with sets of six or seven musicians performing. 

Evans said one of the aspects of the festival that makes it unique is the Sunday patron brunch. The brunch allows the North Carolina Jazz Festival patrons, many of whom are musicians themselves, to join the professionals, she said. 

“Wwe have a jam after the musicians play during the brunch,” Evans said. “Anybody who is a musician and a patron can sit in with the professionals.”

In addition to the evening events, the festival also incorporates educational opportunities during the day. The artists who perform Thursday evening will once again visit Roland-Grise Middle School to perform Friday, Feb. 7. 

Later that Friday, select musicians will also hold master classes for students back at the Hilton. Evans said those classes are open to any students who register beforehand and are free of charge. The list of master classes includes guitar, piano, reed instruments, trumpet and trombone. 

For more information about the master classes, contact festival board member Laura Crane at 910-297-7727. Visit  to purchase tickets.


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