The Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra album.

The CD includes Big Band standards and originals plus a special section of jazz arrangements of classical music by arrangers Paul Kelly and Gregg Gelb. 

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By JACK BOWERS writing for

Published: March 6, 2011

Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra

Jazz Encounters

Self Published


Even though it has been around for more than twenty years, the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra is, to weigh the matter frankly, less than a household name, not even in its home base of Sanford, NC. More’s the pity, as every moderate-sized city should be lucky enough to have an ensemble of this caliber residing within its precincts.

On Jazz Encounters which may be the orchestra’s debut recording (no information about others could be found), the bill of fare runs the gamut from jazz and popular standards to a folk theme (“Danny Boy”), a spiritual (“Deep River”) and jazz arrangements of well-known classical works by Brahms, Dvorak, Beethoven and Debussy (commissioned by the Heart of Carolina Jazz Society). Most of the charts were written by Paul Kelly, a former staff arranger for a number of military bands including the formidable Airmen of Note, or the orchestra’s music director, Gregg Gelb, who doubles (triples?) on alto sax. The exceptions are Count Basie / Harry James / Benny Goodman’s venerable “Two O’Clock Jump,” Henry Mancini’s Oscar-winning “Days of Wine and Roses” (neatly arranged by Nat Pierce), Willie Maiden’s “A Little Minor Booze” and Bill Holman’s sunny “Theme and Variations No. 2.” There are two original compositions, Gelb’s “Hopscotch” and “I Cared for You” (based on the standard “I Should Care”). While none of the charts breaks new ground, each one is bright and engaging.

Soloists aren’t listed, but surely that must be Gelb having his say on ten of the album’s sixteen numbers including “Minor Booze,” “Danny Boy,” Dvorak’s “Goin’ Home,” Debussy’s “My Reverie,” “Deep River” and “Hopscotch.” Guitarist Fred Brush is featured on Kelly’s lively arrangement of “Them There Eyes.” Unnamed soloists (trombone, trumpet) are as capable as can be foreseen from a community-based orchestra. Although the sound is respectable, it lacks the perceptible clarity and separation that are the hallmark of more seasoned and well-equipped recording studios. Not enough, however, to lessen the average listener’s enjoyment or appreciation. These are by and large Jazz Encounters of the pleasurable kind.



By Marvin J. Ward writing for the Classical Voice of North Carolina

March 16, 2011 – Williamsburg, MA:

for entire review click on this CVNC

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Jazz Encounters, Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra, Gregg Gelb, Director.; self-produced, © 2010, TT 57:29, $15.00 incl. S&H; see web site for ordering info; also available at CDBaby.


The CD was released late in 2010 as a celebration of the organization’s reaching the milestone of 20 years. Its 16 tracks are a collection of jazz standards, such as “Them There Eyes” and “Two O’Clock Jump;” arrangements of popular tunes, such as “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Deep River;” a couple of new works by Gelb, “I Cared For You” and “Hopscotch;” and commissioned arrangements of well-known melodies from works of classical music, such as “Goin’ Home” from the fourth movement of Dvořák’s 9th Symphony, “From the New World,” and “Joyful” from the melody of the Ode to Joy in the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Most of the arrangements were made by Gelb or by Sanford musician Paul Kelly, who was for many years staff arranger for U.S. Military jazz bands; some were made earlier by others.

The pieces are well played; this is clearly a fine orchestra in the great “big band” tradition. All of the tracks are fast-paced, lively and upbeat, even those whose source melody is slow – Dvořák’s is a largo for example.

The CD ought, nonetheless, to appeal to lovers of this tradition because of the new material included. Arrangements in this style of classical music themes are something of a novelty, one that is not often found on other big band recordings. Those who have heard the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra in person will enjoy owning this to be able to hear the group again.


Review by Owen Cordle , Raleigh, NC News and Observer, March 27, 2011