Kora Band plays Avalon

After a one-month stay in Africa, drummer Mark DiFlorio and pianist Andrew Oliver returned to their Northwest homes with the expressive melody of the kora still resonating in their ears.

The kora is a 21-string harp played largely by the Mandinka people of West Africa. The musicians made it their immediate mission to seek out a kora player in the Seattle area, where they found their candidate, Kane Mathis. Together, along with Chad McCullough on trumpet and Brady Billard-Kish on bass, they formed the Kora Band, marrying kora and other West African musical traditions with elements of jazz.

The Kora Band will present its unique musical compilation at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Avalon Bar & Grill, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent.

Oliver, who hails from Portland, moved to New Orleans to study jazz at Loyola University, but Hurricane Katrina forced him and DiFlorio, a fellow jazz student, to Portland. In 2007, Oliver and DiFlorio toured as part of the American Music Abroad Program. It was on this tour that they were exposed to the kora.

Mathis proved to be an excellent kora player and demonstrated an extensive knowledge of West African music as he had studied with the Jobarteh family in Gambia, the birthplace of the kora.

The Kora Band released its debut album "Just 4 U" in 2009. The Oregonian states that the album "blends the swing and intellect of American jazz with the divine poetry of West African music."

The band's most recent album "Cascades," also covers a variety of West African pieces, modern repertoire from Congo and Cameroon, as well as originals by Mathis and Oliver with subtle influences of jazz.

Cover for the band's show at the Avalon is $8. For more information, see www.andrewoliver.net/kora or call 541-512-8864.

Share This Story