NCCU Music Professor, Musicians Partner for New Jazz Album

Posted April 16, 2020, 11:33AM
Lenora Helm Hammonds

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Jazz Studies Assistant Professor Lenora Helm Hammonds has released an album featuring NCCU students, faculty and alumni.

The project, “For the Love of Big Band,” was released by Zenzalai Music on March 9. It includes instrumental performances by NCCU Department of Music faculty members Ira Wiggins, Baron Tymas, Thomas Taylor, Joey Calderazzo, Robert Trowers, Al Strong and Isrea Butler. Also appearing are guest conductor Brian Horton and former faculty member Ed Paolantonio.

The new album is Helm Hammonds’ seventh record, the first featuring the Tribe Jazz Orchestra in a unique approach to the big band tradition. The project supports big-band music education and women in jazz.

The Tribe Jazz Orchestra consists of Helm Hammonds, Paolantonio, Tymas, Taylor and members of the Department of Music alumni. Also appearing are special guest vocalist Maurice Myers and the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble. The group features a blended combination of jazz, orchestra and modern chamber ensemble perspectives. American jazz musicians Ameen Saleem and Kobie Watkins also perform on the album.

“I was thrilled to immerse myself in these fabulous stories by some of my favorite composers after being out of the studio for so long,” Helm Hammonds said. “To have the privilege to work with all of these talented musicians and to record with my own big band for the first time is truly a blessing.”

The album was recorded in two days before an audience at the Hayti Heritage Center, a historic church in Durham, N.C. The performances were a soulful mix of jazz standards with arrangements by accomplished musicians including Stanley Cowell, Cecil Bridgewater and Brian Horton. 

Helm Hammonds has been devoting her time to pursuing a doctorate degree and providing instruction at NCCU during her hiatus from music production.

Helm Hammonds’ previous recordings include “I Love Myself When I’m Laughing,” “Chronicles of A Butterfly” and “Precipice.” She has performed and recorded with some of jazz’s leading lights, as well as fronting her own groups at renowned jazz festivals and venues worldwide. Some of those include Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s Club Women’s Jazz Festival, Schomburg Center's Women in Jazz Festival, Blues Alley, JVC Jazz Festival, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Cape Town Jazzathon, University of Pretoria Jazz Festival, Essentially Ellington Regional Festival at Brigham Young University and the Fiji Jazz & Blues Festival.

The album can be purchased on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and CDBaby. For more information, visit

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