Olu Dara

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An all-around jazz talent whose cornet and trumpet numbers range from blues stomps and rags to screaming free passages.
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In the World: From Natchez to New York
Although he didn't record under his own name until 1998, Olu Dara enjoyed a reputation as one of the jazz avant-garde's leading trumpeters from the mid-'70s on. Early-'80s records and performances with the David Murray Octet and the Henry Threadgill Sextet revealed Dara to be a daring, roots-bound soloist, with a modern imagination and a big burnished tone in the style of Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge. Dara was born Charles Jones. He moved to New York in 1963, but did not perform publicly until the early '70s, when he became a part of the city's loft jazz culture. By that time, he had changed his name to the Yoruba Olu Dara. Besides his work with Murray and Threadgill, Dara also played with Hamiet Bluiett, James "Blood" Ulmer, and Don Pullen, among others. Dara was an intermittent presence on the jazz scene in the '80s and '90s, occasionally leading his Okra Orchestra and Natchezsippi Dance Band. In 1985, he recorded with Pullen and in 1987, with saxophonist Charles Brackeen; in the '90s he worked with vocalist Cassandra Wilson, playing on her Blue Note album, Blue Light 'Til Dawn. Not much else was heard from him -- from a jazz perspective, anyway -- until 1998, when Atlantic released In the World: From Natchez to New York, the first album released under Dara's name. The record was only tangentially related to his free jazz work. The music drew upon country-blues and African-American folk traditions. In addition to playing trumpet and cornet, Dara composed all of the tunes, sung, and accompanied himself on guitar. Atlantic released Dara's follow-up, entitled Neighborhoods, in early 2001.