Happy Birthday Olu Dara

January 12, 1941

A tribute to the adventurous trumpeter and guitarist

Cornetist, guitarist and singer Charles Jones III. (he changed his name to Olu Dara in 1969) was born on January 12, 1941 in Natchez, Mississippi.

Although he began playing trumpet when he was seven, he did not pursue music seriously for many years.

Dara served in the Navy during 1959-62, moved to New York in 1963, and worked in other fields until he was 30 in 1971.

Olu Dara played briefly with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, was part of the New York loft scene, and performed with such advanced jazz artists as Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett, Sam Rivers, Henry Threadgill, James Newton, Don Pullen, and most notably David Murray.

Dara proved to be an expert with plunger mutes and his knowledge of earlier styles resulted in him using aspects of the past in his relaxed playing.

In the 1980s Dara worked as a sideman with Charles Brackeen, Cassandra Wilson, James Blood Ulmer, Henry Threadgill and David Murray (both his big band and his octet) in addition to leading the seven-piece Okra Orchestra and the four-piece Natchezsippi Dance Band, also writing the music for theatre productions including his own musical melodrama From Natchez To New York.

In 1998 he surprised many listeners by playing guitar and singing on his debut CD as a leader, In The World: From Natchez To New York, re-inventing himself and exploring country blues; he has been less active in the 21st century.

Here is Olu Dara performing “Your Lips” in 1999.

-Scott Yanow


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