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Drawing well-deserved attention far from its Portland/Seattle roots, Kora Band – Andrew Oliver (piano), Kane Mathis (kora/guitar), Chad McCullough (trumpet), Brady Millard-Kish (bass), and Mark DiFlorio (drums) – combines elements of jazz and West African music.
In 2007, Portland-based pianist Andrew Oliver was participating in the U.S. State Department’s Rhythm Road program, which sends bands abroad as cultural ambassadors of the United States. While in Senegal he encountered a kora, a traditional 21-string harp of the West African Mandinka people. Much to his surprise, the instrument blended very well into a jazz context. The unexpected success of this collaboration inspired Oliver to dive deeper into the relationship between jazz and West African music upon his return along with Mark DiFlorio, the drummer from that tour. His exploration eventually led to the founding of the Kora Band, featuring atypical instrumentation that highlights Kane Mathis, one of the most accomplished American kora players. The group was rounded out with Seattle trumpeter Chad McCullough and bassist Brady Millard-Kish. The band performs original compositions as well as covers of traditional and contemporary West African repertoire, providing uplifting and unique music that reflects the increasing globalization of today’s world. In 2009, the ensemble released its debut album, Just 4 U, which Seattle Weekly said was “one of the better world-music releases to come out of the Northwest all year.” Their second album, Cascades, reached No. 12 on the U.S. World Music Airplay charts and No. 22 on the JazzWeek Radio Charts the following year. Most recently, the band was awarded a New Jazz Works grant from Chamber Music America to commission, debut, and record a new concert-length piece of music to further explore the unique integration of these two musical styles and the roots of jazz in West Africa. www.koraband.com