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Tribute to Olu Dara, his life and times

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 2/13/2013, 12:56 p.m.
Tribute to Olu Dara, his life and times

It was six years ago at the Jazz Museum in Harlem that many of Olu Dara's fans and admirers were given an opportunity to hear some personal anecdotes from the acclaimed musician and gather some sense of how he artfully mixed a down-home style with a special urbane hipness.

Dara, born Charles Jones III and recently turned 72, is as much a compelling storyteller as he is a musician, and concertgoers are doubly fulfilled when he decides to blend the two elements of his art and craft. There is a good chance that many aspects of his unabashed artistic brilliance will be summoned on Feb. 2 at the Schomburg Center, when a coterie of friends, associates and, of course, performers will assemble to pay tribute to him. Nowadays, Dara is retired from the stage he often commanded with such wit, panache and bravado, willing to bide his time with his family and let others recount his ever-expanding legacy.

And it's a very impressive legacy that includes memorable stints with such luminaries as Art Blakely, Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett, Henry Threadgill, Sam Rivers, et al. There are those who remember him best when he provided the music for dancer-choreographer Dianne McIntyre and her troupe or in the Robert Altman films, or with his son, the noted rap artist Nas. To cite just a portion of his many accomplishments, the awards and citations would consume the allotted space here, but with the talk nowadays about the movie "Django Unchained," it might be worth a mention to note that Dara was the recipient of France's Django d'Or International Trophy in the Blues Album category.

But if the tribute to him needs a reference to the blues or to his early days in Natchez, Miss., then vocalist Cassandra Wilson will fill the bill and possibly flavor her renditions with memories of the times they spent together at festivals and in the recording studio. Her moments in front of the Olu Dara Band, should they occur, are sure to be riveting highlights of the evening.

Others slated to appear are Harlem's renowned songstress Melba Joyce; the electrifying Brawner Brothers; the Tony Terrell Caribbean Jazz Quartet; Omar Edwards; Lady Cantrese; Sounds in Motion; and Makane Kouyate with Dembaya; and Kwatei Jones-Quartey, who often performed with Dara, is the tribute's musical director. And with the event hosted and moderated by the magnificent Avery Brooks and complemented by the appearance of versatile writer Amiri Baraka, it will be an unforgettable occasion and comparable to any one of Dara's great dates.

A post-reception for VIP ticket-holders will begin at 9:30 p.m., featuring musical entertainment by the Reggie Quinerly Trio. General admission to the event, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Schomburg Center and begin at 7:30 p.m., is $30; and an additional $30 is requested for those interested in attending the post-reception.

For tickets, call 1-888-71-Tickets or 212-491-2206 or visit www.ShowClix.com.