The Kora Band integrates the uniquely entrancing timbre of the kora, a traditional 21-string harp from West Africa, into a jazz context, bringing together two musical traditions with historical connections to create a totally unique sound reflecting the globalized world of the 21st century.
Founded by London-based American pianist and composer Andrew Oliver after a 2007 U.S. State Department tour to West Africa, the band features New York-based virtuoso Kane Mathis on kora, bringing extensive knowledge from two decades of study with master musicians in the Gambia in addition to conservatory training in the U.S. The band performs Andrew’s original music as well as traditional and repertoire from across West Africa with the seamless integration of piano and kora churning along as the backbone of the group sound, augmented by trumpet, bass, and drums.
The group’s 2010 album “Cascades” (OA2 Records) won Earshot Jazz’s award for “Northwest Jazz Album of the Year” and peaked at #12 on the U.S. World Music radio charts. In 2012, Andrew was awarded a prestigious Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant for the commissioning and recording of a new concert length work transforming elements from specific traditional kora pieces into new jazz compositions.
The resulting album, “New Cities,” will be released in the spring of 2015 on Whirlwind Recordings with an accompanying UK tour featuring Andrew and Kane alongside an all-star cast including Byron Wallen (trumpet), Michael Janisch (bass), and Dave De Rose (drums).
Listen to “The Contract,” the opening track from “New Cities”:
“World jazz” […]projects frequently come off as gimmicky. Not so with the Kora Band, a group of Portland and Seattle musicians […] who successfully incorporate West African rhythms and textures into their otherwise mainstream jazz sound. “Cascades” proceeds in a manner that’s unhurried and consistently inviting. – Jazziz
“cerebral enough to form complex interplay between the traditional kora sounds and modern piano sounds, but more importantly, being able to fuse the musics into something that is at once modern, thoughtful jazz and innovations upon traditional music” – All Music Guide
“Modest but mesmerizing, it’s as novel and agreeable a sound as you’ve never heard.” – Seattle Times