Olu Dara

Last updated

Olu Dara
Birth nameCharles Jones III
Born (1941-01-12) January 12, 1941 (age 80)
Natchez, Mississippi
Genres Jazz
  • Musician
  • songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, cornet
Years active1964–present
Labels Atlantic Records
Associated acts Nas, Bravehearts, AZ

Olu Dara Jones (born Charles Jones III, January 12, 1941) is an American cornetist, guitarist, and singer. He is the father of rapper Nas.


Early life

Olu Dara was born Charles Jones III January 12, 1941, in Natchez, Mississippi. [1] [2] His mother, Ella Mae, was born in 1911 in Canton, Mississippi. [2] His father, Charles Jones II, also born in Natchez, [2] was a travelling musician, and sang with The Melodiers, a vocal quartet with a guitarist. [3]

As a child, Dara took piano and clarinet lessons. He studied at Tennessee State University, initially a pre-med major, switching to music theory and composition. [3]


From 1959 to 1964 he was a musician in the Navy, which he described as a priceless educational experience. [3]

In 1964, he moved to New York City and changed his name to Olu Dara, [4] [5] which means "God is good" in the Yoruba language. [5] In the 1970s and '80s he played alongside David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Hamiet Bluiett, Don Pullen, Charles Brackeen, James Blood Ulmer, and Cassandra Wilson. He formed two bands, the Okra Orchestra and the Natchezsippi Dance Band. [1] [4]

His first album, In the World: From Natchez to New York (1998), revealed another aspect of his musical personality: the leader and singer of a band immersed in African-American tradition, playing an eclectic mix of blues, jazz, and storytelling, with tinges of funk, African popular music, and reggae. His second album Neighborhoods , with guest appearances by Dr. John and Cassandra Wilson, followed in a similar vein.

Dara played on the album Illmatic (1994) by his son, rapper Nas, and on the song "Dance" (2002), also by Nas, and he sang on Nas's song "Bridging the Gap" (2004). [5]


As leader

With Material

As sideman

With Charles Brackeen

With Rhys Chatham

With Carlos Garnett

With Corey Harris

With Craig Harris

With David Murray

With Nas

With Jamaaladeen Tacuma

With Henry Threadgill

With James Blood Ulmer

With Cassandra Wilson

With others

Related Research Articles

David Murray (saxophonist) American jazz musician

David "Dave" Keith Murray is an American jazz musician who plays tenor saxophone and bass clarinet mainly. He has recorded prolifically for many record labels since the mid-1970s.

Cassandra Wilson American jazz singer, songwriter, and producer from Jackson, Mississippi

Cassandra Wilson is an American jazz singer, songwriter, and producer from Jackson, Mississippi. She has been described by critic Gary Giddins as "a singer blessed with an unmistakable timbre and attack [who has] expanded the playing field" by incorporating blues, country, and folk music into her work.

Andrew Cyrille American avant-garde jazz drummer

Andrew Charles Cyrille is an American avant-garde jazz drummer. Throughout his career, he has performed both as a leader and a sideman in the bands of Walt Dickerson and Cecil Taylor, among others. AllMusic biographer Chris Kelsey wrote: "Few free-jazz drummers play with a tenth of Cyrille's grace and authority. His energy is unflagging, his power absolute, tempered only by an ever-present sense of propriety."

Don Byron

Donald Byron is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist. He primarily plays clarinet but has also played bass clarinet and saxophone in a variety of genres that includes free jazz and klezmer.

Craig Harris

Craig S. Harris is a jazz trombonist who started working with Sun Ra in 1976. He also has worked with Abdullah Ibrahim, David Murray, Lester Bowie, Cecil Taylor, Sam Rivers, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Charlie Haden. He has recorded since 1983 as leader for India Navigation, Soul Note and JMT. For the latter he recorded with two groups. The Tailgaters Tails was a quintet with clarinetist Don Byron, trumpeter Eddie Allen, Anthony Cox on double bass, and Pheeroan akLaff on drums. His large ensemble Cold Sweat was a tribute to the music of James Brown.

Don Pullen

Don Gabriel Pullen was an American jazz pianist and organist. Pullen developed a strikingly individual style throughout his career. He composed pieces ranging from blues to bebop and modern jazz. The great variety of his body of work makes it difficult to pigeonhole his musical style.

Hamiet Bluiett

Hamiet Bluiett was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer. His primary instrument was the baritone saxophone, and he was considered one of the finest players of this instrument. A member of the World Saxophone Quartet, he also played the bass saxophone, E-flat alto clarinet, E-flat contra-alto clarinet, and wooden flute.

<i>Days Aweigh</i> 1987 studio album by Cassandra Wilson

Days Aweigh is the second studio album by American jazz singer Cassandra Wilson. It was originally released on the JMT label in 1987 and later rereleased on Winter & Winter.

Tani Tabbal is a jazz drummer who has worked with Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray, and Cassandra Wilson.

Fred Hopkins was a double bassist who played a major role in the development of the avant-garde jazz movement. He was best known for his association with the trio Air with Henry Threadgill and Steve McCall, and for his numerous performances and extensive recordings with major jazz musicians such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Arthur Blythe, Oliver Lake, and David Murray. He was a member of the AACM, and a frequent participant in the loft jazz scene of the 1970s. He also co-led a number of albums with the composer and cellist Diedre Murray. Gary Giddins wrote that Hopkins' playing "fused audacious power with mercuric reflexes." Howard Reich, writing in the Chicago Tribune, stated that "many connoisseurs considered [Hopkins] the most accomplished jazz bassist of his generation" and praised him for "the extraordinarily fluid technique, sumptuous tone and innovative methods he brought to his instrument."

Marvin "Smitty" Smith is an American jazz drummer and composer.

Kahil ElZabar

Kahil El'Zabar is a jazz multi-instrumentalist and composer. He regularly records for Delmark Records. He attended Lake Forest College and joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the early 1970s, and became its chairman in 1975. During the 1970s, he formed the musical groups Ritual Trio and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, both of which remain active. Musicians with whom Kahil EL'Zabar has collaborated include Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Simon, Pharoah Sanders, and Billy Bang. In 2017 the film "Be Known - The Mystery of Kahil El Zabar" by filmmaker Dwayne Johnson-Cochran was released. The documentary follows El' Zabar and band on their 2007 Black History Month tour. The film has been available on Amazon Prime.

Vincent Chancey is an American jazz hornist.

Jean-Paul Bourelly

Jean-Paul Etienne Bourelly is an American guitarist whose music crosses the boundaries of jazz fusion and rock.

Phillip Sanford Wilson was an American musician, percussionist, drum kit specialist, avant-guard, "jazz drummer"', and founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Edward E. Cherry Jr. is an American jazz guitarist and studio musician. Cherry is perhaps best known for his long association with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, with whom he performed from 1978 until shortly before Gillespie's death in 1993. Since that time, he has worked with Paquito D'Rivera, Jon Faddis, John Patton, Hamiet Bluiett, Henry Threadgill, and Paula West. He has recorded a number of albums as a leader.

<i>Attainment</i> (album) 1988 studio album by Charles Brackeen Quartet

Attainment is the third album led by saxophonist Charles Brackeen which recorded in 1987 and released on the Swedish Silkheart label.

<i>Worshippers Come Nigh</i> 1988 studio album by Charles Brackeen Quartet

Worshippers Come Nigh is the fourth album led by saxophonist Charles Brackeen which was recorded in 1987 and released on the Swedish Silkheart label.

Reginald "Reggie" Nicholson is an American jazz drummer.

<i>Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions</i> 1977 live album by Various

Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions is a series of five albums recorded May 14–23, 1976 at Studio Rivbea, a loft jazz space in New York City, run by Sam Rivers and his wife Bea. The albums include performances by groups led by musicians such as Hamiet Bluiett, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Dave Burrell, Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Jimmy Lyons, Ken McIntyre, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray, Sunny Murray, Sam Rivers, Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, and Randy Weston. The recordings were originally released in 1977 on the Douglas and Casablanca labels as five separate LPs, and were reissued in 1999 by Knit Classics as a 3-CD set.


  1. 1 2 Dara, Olu (Winter 1998). "Olu Dara". Bomb (Interview) (62). Interviewed by Tracie Morris. Archived from the original on December 8, 2009 via bombsite.com.
  2. 1 2 3 Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (October 29, 2014). "Nas' Interactive Family Tree". Finding Your Roots. PBS. Archived from the original on December 10, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Skelly, Richard J. (January 30, 2002). "Olu Dara's Trip: From Natchez to New York". U.S. 1 . Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  4. 1 2 Kelsey, Chris. "Olu Dara". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 Dreisinger, Baz (December 5, 2004). "Nas and His Dad's Jazz". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  6. "Olu Dara | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2017.