A couple of years ogo, Dusk sent out a glowing review of an Olu Dara show. But I never got a chance to see him until last year when he opened the show for Maceo Parker and Susan Tedeschi at Wolf Trap. He stole that show... no mean feat. That night was one of those jaw dropping moments... you know those times where you hear some music so totally amazing and unsuspected. The kind of thing that happens several times on your first trip to Jazzfest.
Olu played to last night to a half-full, but very enthusiastic, Rams Head crowd. I sat just in front of the sound board, and it sounded like the sound crew was having their own jaw dropping night. I had to pull my jaw back up on occasion as well.
Olu comes from a New York Jazz background. And that becomes quickly apparent in his live shows. Whereas, the songs on his albums are nicely crafted nuggets. Live they are disected, added to, streached, and morphed. There are great long solos. And you'll get the back story on the song, a different story, or even an essay on the health benefits of music and dance.
Olu is a superb coronetist and singer and a very friendly stage personality. He is backed up by drums, bass, congas, and guitar. They are all superior musicians. The guitarist particularly stood out, his tone was a bit odd, but it blended well with Olu's horn. And his rifs could have easily fit in with Ali Farka Toure or Oliver Mtukuduzis' bands. The music is deeply funky with definite West African, Caribbean, and Blues influences. He is definately someone you should check out. It was well worth the long haul to Annapolis.