North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra

NCJRO  Photo courtesy Steve Bromberg

NCJRO  Photo courtesy Steve Bromberg

James Ketch, Music Director

The North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra (NCJRO) is the state’s premier jazz orchestra. Founded in 1993, the 18-member ensemble has championed the great American jazz art form by presenting concerts and educational programming across the state. The orchestra has recorded three CDs and appeared on public television broadcasts by UNC-TV. The orchestra has performed with many jazz luminaries including Branford Marsalis, John Pizzarelli, Rene Marie, the Marcus Roberts Trio, Slide Hampton, and Claudio Roditi. Other collaborations have included presentations with the North Carolina Symphony: the choirs of Duke Chapel, UNC-Chapel Hill, and NCCU; the 15-501 Ballet; the NC Youth Tap Ensemble; NYC’s Fiasco Theater; the duo dance team Two Near The Edge, and TV personalities David Hartman and Charlie Gaddy.


The NCJRO maintains a repertory that spans nearly a century. Fans of the orchestra have come to expect concerts featuring music from Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Fletcher Henderson, and Duke Ellington right along with contemporary arrangements of Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer, and local writers and arrangers. 

Comprised of professional musicians and educators from across the state, the NCJRO has been active presenting workshops, clinics, and school programs in many North Carolina locations. The band’s Jazz Express program brings NCJRO members into elementary, middle, and high school classrooms for demonstrations, lectures, and coaching sessions. Grants have allowed the band to present Duke Ellington’s adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to hundreds of NC public school children and to co-sponsor the North Carolina School of Science and Math annual jazz festival. Other programs built around music and storytelling elevate literacy among grade-school children.

The NCJRO is directed by James Ketch, who is Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ketch is a Summit Records artist with highly acclaimed CD recordings. He serves as Associate Director, alongside Director Marcus Roberts, for the annual Savannah Music Festival’s Swing Central program and is a longstanding member of the faculty of the famed Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop at the University of Louisville. As a Professor at UNC, Ketch is the recipient of four university teaching awards.

The NCJRO is operated and supported by the not-for-profit Jazz Foundation of North Carolina, Inc., located in Durham, NC. The Board of Directors members are committed to preserving jazz in all its forms. As a result of their efforts, big band music has been alive on stages and campuses of public schools, colleges, and universities for more than 20 years. The band has celebrated the spirit of swing, freedom, and democracy through jazz music as a result of a wonderful partnership with the people of North Carolina!

Here's what they're saying about the NCJRO:

"Repertory is an essential component of any serious art form, and it is a movement that has gradually come to jazz. Jim Ketch and the North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra are a vital artery in the perpetuation of the art form. It was a pleasure to play with such high caliber musicians."
- Branford Marsalis

"The NCJRO does not take its swinging lightly. It is a terrific group of musicians that represent everything that is great about jazz. They run the gamut of styles flawlessly and the ensemble playing is tremendous."
- John Pizzarelli

"Move over, Lincoln Center and Smithsonian Jazz Orchestras."
- Owen Cordle, Jazz Critic and Writer
Downbeat Magazine
Raleigh News & Observer


To contact the NCJRO