The Kora Band

Cascades

oa2 22073



MUSIC REVIEW BY Kyle O'Brien, Jazz Society of Oregon

VIEW THE CD DETAIL PAGE

Portland pianist Andrew Oliver takes on the music of west Africa with this ambitious project. The band fuses western styles and influences with the music of The Gambia, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. The opener, "Sinyaro," features the band's kora (a 21-stringed instrument of the Mandinka people) player, Kane Mathis. While Mathis is a western musician, he learned the kora and the accompanying language he occasionally sings in The Gambia, and his mastery is what leads this group. "Sinyaro" sounds like a fusion experiment in the truest sense. There are elements of western jazz, African song and rhythm, and even Cuban music. The kora sounds a bit like a harpsichord, koto and sitar combined. It's a lovely sound, and one that makes the disc more folk-oriented. There are repeated phrases that build the energy, much like in African folk musics, but then there is the western influence and a compositional structure that takes it to North America. It's especially evident on the track "Over-Caffeinated and Under-Fed," which calls in more jazz. Oliver shines on a fiery piano solo over a Ghana-meets-samba beat. The other musicians, from Seattle, also shine in their roles, including trumpeter Chad McCullogh, who adds texture and melody, and drummer Mark DiFlorio. While this may not be a true jazz album, it does explore the roots of some jazz, and it uncovers an instrument most western ears may not have heard before.






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