RECENT HISTORY – The Year That Wasn’t – 2021

After a very successful 40th anniversary event we were looking forward to our 41st North Carolina Jazz Festival , which was to take place the first weekend in February 2021. The Covid 19 pandemic blew that music right out the window, so with the help of our wonderful musicians we got creative and made our 3 night event into a 90 minute live-streamed one that music lovers could enjoy from their homes. The link to that video will remain on our website for all to enjoy.


We are so happy to have been able to bring you a “taste” of our annual NC Jazz Festival via livestream! Next year we plan to be back on the Hotel Ballast ballroom stage with an entire “buffet” of JAZZ!

Thanks to all who invited us into their homes via our Livestream button, Facebook or YouTube. We did not charge for this event, but did ask for donations, which were sent to our 15 musicians who took part in this experiment/extravaganza! The generosity of our audience made it possible for us to send more than $7,000 in checks to these fantastic musicians! Participating were:

On stage at the Chelsea Music Hall in NYC the following musicians (masked and well distanced) played:

  • Ehud Asherie – piano
  • Bruce Harris – trumpet
  • Houston Person – saxophone
  • Rossano Sportiello – piano
  • Dion Tucker – trombone
  • Neal Miner – bass
  • Aaron Kimmel – drums

Neal and Aaron are new to NCJF. Due to the necessity of many of our musicians who sent their music via video, these gentlemen are joining us on stage. Our thanks to them!

Musicians who sent their music and messages via video from their “bubbles”are:

  • Herman Burney – bass ( in Winston Salem, NC)
  • Adrian Cunningham – reeds & flute & dancing shoes (in Barcelona, Spain)
  • Kevin Dorn – drums ( in NYC)
  • Nate Najar – guitar (in Tampa FL)
  • Nicki Parrott – bass (Brookfield, CT)
  • Chuck Redd – vibes ( in Takoma Park, MD)
  • Jonathan Russell – violin (somewhere in the Poconos)

Our thanks go to Bruce Harris, who suggested that we have a live streamed event (and who connected the dots/notes for us to view) , Mirrorbox, who produced it (www.mirrorbox.com) and the Chelsea Music Hall (who donated their stage to us for the event.)

2022 – Well, it happened again! Another shut-down of live performances due to the covid pandemic!

Our streamed event was viewed by many and can be viewed by many more at anytime, as the button will remain on our website for all to use – at no charge!


This year we were shocked at the last minute shut-down, but better prepared at handling it—Bruce Harris again stepped up to be our “out of town musical curator”. This time we held our on stage event at The Django Jazz Club in NYC with the following musicians performing there:

  • Ehud Asherie – piano
  • Bruce Harris – trumpet
  • Nate Najar – guitar
  • Houston Person – sax
  • Rossano Sportiello – piano
  • Dion Tucker – trombone
  • Steve Washington – Vocals
  • Lucy Yeghiazaryan – vocals
  • Daniela Soledade – vocals
  • Luke Sellick – bass
  • Aaron Kimmel – drums

Those performing from their homes were:

  • Chuck Redd – vibes
  • Jonathan Russell – violin
  • Herman Burney – bass
  • Nicki Parrott – bass
  • Chris Gelb – drums
  • Kevin Dorn – drums
  • Lenore Raphael – piano

The introduction to the event was done by our multi talented professor – Adrian Cunningham, in his “James Bondish role”.
We were very thankful to our sponsors and grantors who allowed us to use their monetary contributions for the live-streamed event, as well as those patrons and ticket buyers who made their ticket prices a donation to this event. Sooooo much support from our jazz lovers, it was overwhelming! We also had the paypal button available for folks to make donations, which all went to the musicians!

Harry Van Velsor

This festival was started in 1980 by Dr. Harry VanVelsor, a local dermatologist, and consummate jazz lover.  Harry’s devotion to Dixieland and Traditional style jazz greatly influenced the structure of this new event in Wilmington.

Over the years the greatest of Traditional Jazz artists have brought their musical talents here to be a part of this festival.  Names like Art Hodes, Milt Hinton, Kenny Davern, Keter Betts, Bobby Rosengarden, Tony DiNicola, and Johnny Frigo are among the late greats who have passed this way.

In recent years we have hosted an array of talents from around the nation and the world—Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Houston Person, Wycliffe Gordon, Duke Heitger and Ken Peplowski, to name just a few.

We have introduced some young newcomers to our area also— Jonathan Russell first played here at age 11, when his performance with renowned guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (age 81) was a show stopper!

Those internationals who have followed their love of jazz to its’ homeland and to the North Carolina Jazz Festival include  Antti Sarpila (Finland); Nicki Parrott (Australia); Derek Smith (England); Bria Skonberg,  Peter Appleyard, Jim Galloway and Randy Reinhart (Canada).  We have also added Rossano Sportiello ( Italy ),and Anat Cohen ( Israel ) to our international list. As well as Adrian Cunningham (Australia)to the NCJF audiences, and Israeli pianist Ehud Asherie, Anita Thomas(Austrailia) reeds player, singer Maucha Adnet, Daduka da Fonseca(Brazil).

Since 2006, when Dr. VanVelsor retired from active participation in the North Carolina Jazz Festival, its board has been under the leadership of Sandy Evans, former president of the Cape Fear Jazz Society.

The history of the NCJF and its’ musicians is impressive!  We look forward to continuing the tradition of bringing to the area the highest standard of jazz excellence. NCJF is a non-profit organization, staffed solely by volunteers.

Videos From 2019

Jonathan’s Don’t Mean A Thing

Final Tune

Videos By Jim Russell