360 Degrees of Horizon: Andrew Oliver

By Lisa Radon | Wednesday, February 2, 2011
360 Degrees of Horizon: Andrew Oliver

“Grace / to be born and live as variously as possible." -Frank O'Hara

On any given night Andrew Oliver may be playing 1920s roots jazz with his Bridgetown Sextet, minimalist compositions with The Ocular Concern, or West African music with The Kora Band...except on Monday evenings at 8 PM when he hosts The Jazz Score on KMHD. The talented 26-year-old jazz pianist and composer is pushing out to the horizons of jazz leading not one but six groups and plays in many more, touring throughout the region. He'll play later this month at the Portland Jazz Festival with both The Kora Band and the Devin Phillips Quartet. 

It was with the Devin Phillips Quartet that Oliver traveled in 2007 via the U.S. State Department’s Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program to five West African countries, performing, teaching, and serving as a cultural ambassador. Whatever Oliver took with him to West Africa, he brought home much more. His interest kindled in the links between jazz and West African music, Oliver was inspired to put together his most unique group, The Kora Band, which plays original and traditional music with Kane Mathis on the kora, a 21-string African harp, plus trumpet, piano, bass, and drums.

Fellow musician, writer, and KMHD DJ Tim DuRoche says,“Andrew is Portland's Dave Douglas. His many projects veer in a lot of different directions and allow him to explore a myriad of influences and interests including large bands, African influences, traditional jazz, post-bop, and more.” Among Oliver's many projects, one of the more recent is Tunnel Six, a modern jazz collective of three Canadians and three Americans founded at the Banff International workshop in 2009. The Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble is a 14-piece group Oliver co-founded as a forum for jazz composers in Portland to present new large-group works. His longest-running project, the Andrew Oliver Sextet—with jazz, world music and rock influences—has released two albums since 2008, (most recently 82% Chance of Rain 2010 on OA2 Records), and he's released a number of albums with various other projects.

The center of this musical storm is Oliver, a Portland native who returned to Oregon after Hurricane Katrina ended his music studies at Loyola University in New Orleans. As a child, Oliver began by studying classical music on piano and cello before delving into improvisation during high school. Now with a degree in jazz performance from PSU under his belt, Oliver continues to branch out. Besides playing regularly both locally and at festivals as well as touring with his own and other groups, Oliver teaches piano and does arrangements for a number of groups and composers. 

As John Pomietlasz wrote last year in KMHD's Jazz Notes, “There’s a refreshing, youthful and modern edge emerging in the jazz scene. Well-educated 20-somethings who know and respect tradition are taking the music in innovative directions. Locally, the eclectic Andrew Oliver Sextet is a notable example of a band helping to define the new jazz generation.” 

Oliver is among the most recent recipients of an Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship and has previously been awarded an OAC Career Opportunity Grant to study with John Hollenbeck in New York. 

Oregon Arts Commission

(503) 986-0082 (phone)
(503) 581-5115 (fax)
775 Summer Street NE, Ste 200
Salem, OR 97301-1280