1

The Kora Band: New Cities

Roger Farbey By

Sign in to view read count
The Kora Band: New Cities
Pianist Andrew Oliver formed The Kora Band in 2008 following a tour in West Africa and a chance meeting with a kora player, leading him to track down Kane Mathis, whom he recruited and whose presence naturally gave birth to the group's name and its idiosyncratic sound. Mathis is one of the foremost kora players in America and brings to the band a completely different dimension. The kora is a kind of traditional harp, originally played by musicians of the Mandinka ethnic group of West Africa, and the effect of the sound it produces, can edge towards the mesmeric.

Kicking off this set "The Contract" might give the listener the idea that this is "world music," which in a sense it is since Mathis' expertise on the kora evokes a variety of moods often sounding at times, and to the untutored listener, like a rapidly oscillating cross between Mexican mariachi and Greek rebetiko. Combined with its African roots, this kora-led music effortlessly crosses continents with dizzying alacrity.

Chad McCullough's trumpet hook on "Bière La Gazelle" sounds tantalisingly close to the first bar of Bach's "Jesu Joy Of Man's Desiring," this lively number soon evolving into a latin-esque outing. The twin horns configuration (trumpet and clarinet) and tricky timing on "5 Ans D'Effort" give this track a more distinctly jazzy feel, all underpinned by Oliver's exploratory, rapid-fire piano work.

A fleeting burst of kora leads into the slow-paced "Teriyaa" where Mathis sings his own plaintively impassioned West African lyrics on the only vocal track on the album. When Mathis is at full pelt on the kora, the sound he produces is uncannily similar to the electric harpsichord flourishes on Terry Riley's masterpiece A Rainbow In Curved Air. Chad McCullough overshadows all on "Specialists in Some Styles" with Mark DiFlorio plays calabash here rather than drum kit, thus offering-up some very apposite percussive subtlety.

"Slip Coach (for Chet)" again features Lee Elderton with a lithe clarinet solo. The title track is the longest at just over ten minutes with Chad McCullough leading the serpentine melody and Andrew Oliver introducing some brilliant piano skirmishes. The ballad, "Old Countries" concludes this intriguing set.

It would be tempting to introduce all sorts of comparisons to others playing either West African music or jazz, but in truth The Kora Band doesn't really sound like any other group. This is an amazing feat, in a century supersaturated with music of every hue, and a convincing testament to the innovative sound of a jazz band successfully incorporating non-Western traditional instruments.

Track Listing

The Contract; Bière La Gazelle; 5 Ans D'Effort; Teriyaa; Specialists in Some Styles; Slip Coach (for Chet); New Cities; Old Countries

Personnel

Andrew Oliver: piano; Kane Mathis: kora and vocals; Chad McCullough: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brady Millard-Kish: acoustic and electric bass; Mark DiFlorio: drums, calabash; plus Lee Elderton: clarinet (tracks 3 and 6).

Album information

Title: New Cities | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd

Post a comment about this album

Tags

View events near Portland
Jazz Near Portland
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop Amazon

More

Read Human
Human
Shai Maestro
Read Hurricane Mouse
Hurricane Mouse
The Justin Rothberg Group
Read Latínball í Búðardal
Latínball í Búðardal
Tómas R. Einarsson
Read Bernstein Reimagined
Bernstein Reimagined
Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra
Read Faune
Faune
Raphaël Pannier Quartet
Read En Casa Limon
En Casa Limon
David Broza
Read Freedom Fables
Freedom Fables
Nubiyan Twist

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.