Olu Dara

Olu Dara
Birth name Charles Jones III
Born (1941-01-12) January 12, 1941
Natchez, Mississippi, US
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar, cornet
Years active 1960s–present
Labels Atlantic
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.


Olu Dara was born Charles Jones in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of Ella Mae and Charles Jones.[1][2] He moved to New York in 1963.[3] He first became known as a jazz musician, playing alongside avant-garde musicians such as David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Charles Brackeen, and Art Blakey. He has formed two of his own bands, The Okra Orchestra and The Natchezippi Band, the first a “theatrical nightclub band” and the second a concert band.[4]

His first album under his own name, 1998's In the World: From Natchez to New York, 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.

Rapper Nas (Nasir Jones) is Dara's son. He encouraged his father to record the music he was playing with his band, and guested on "Jungle Jay" from In the World. Dara played the cornet on the track "Life's a Bitch" from Nas's debut album Illmatic in 1994 and on the song "Dance" from God's Son, a posthumous tribute to Anne Jones his former wife and Nas's mother. In 2004, his vocals and trumpet were featured on Nas's single "Bridging the Gap", and the title track from his album Street's Disciple. The song "Poppa Was A Player" off The Lost Tapes was inspired by Nas' childhood times around Olu Dara.

He was given the name "Olu Dara," which literally translated means "God is good" in Yoruba language,[5] by a Yoruba priest when he returned to America. Dara has traveled throughout Africa and Europe.

Dara is also an accomplished playwright and actor, staging Blues Rooms to strong acclaim in New York City and Fairfax, Virginia during the 1990s.


As leader

As sideman

With The Be Good Tanyas

With Dirty Dozen Brass Band

With Craig Harris

With Julius Hemphill

With Oliver Lake

With Brother Jack McDuff

With David Murray

With Cecil McBee

With James Newton

With Don Pullen

With Henry Threadgill

With James Blood Ulmer

With Various Artists

With Cassandra Wilson

Songs with Nas


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