March 1998

Olu Dara

Trumpeter/guitarist/vocalist/ composer/actor Olu Dara conjures up a very tasty musical gumbo on his first Atlantic release, In The World. Subtitled, “From Natchez to New York,” the Mississippi native, a New Yorker for more than three decades, draws from many eras of jazz, along with blues, R&B, gospel, Afro-Caribbean, African music and theater as well. His collaborators on In The World have “mostly been with me for nearly 15 years” and the result is a cohesive creation that seamlessly weaves diverse elements in new and intriguing ways.

A distinctive cornet player, Dara enjoys playing guitar as well, with tracks on the recording featuring his vocal and guitar. “These really fit my personality. I do those things at home when I come home at night and sit, just me and the guitar. That’s my favorite situation because I can travel without structures.”

A veteran of the ’70s loft scene, Dara has played with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, in addition to David Murray and Sam Rivers, and assembled his own groups, the Okra Orchestra and the Natchezisspi Band, along the way. A parallel career in theatre has resulted in collaborations with leading African American theatre artists, including choreographer Dianne McIntyre. Their latest collaboration, Blues Room, is currently in production at George Mason University. In Robert Alman’s Kansas City, Dara participated in the ongoing jam session that framed that film.

Flying below the radar of commercial media, Dara has managed to chart a course for his creativity by “having my hand in many ways of expressing myself. I’m eclectic, I go from blues to jazz to theatre to dance and I’m not really trapped in one venue. That makes it easier because I don’t have to depend on one situation. I enjoy being one of the people who don’t mind taking chances.”

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