OLU DARA: IN THE WORLD - FROM NATCHEZ TO NEW YORK CD
Review by Gary S. Mattingly


Olue Dara: In The World CD Cover Well I got another strange result as to category when I checked on CDDB. This time it said "blues". Well I'd personally place it in jazz. However it definitely had some songs that were blues. Some songs were reminiscent of high life or soca. Some stuff was current urban. However the whole thing was great. Cool is sort of overused and trite but this is cool, but definitely not overused and trite. Everything works great. Things fit together. It is smooth. Speaking of smooth, if you buy this CD be sure and read the liner notes by Ntozake Shange. They are great too. I'll have to see what else this person has written.

Okra starts it off. If you're familiar with soca or high life, you might say you could place this song close to that type of music. For some reason or another this brought to mind Cocoanut Woman by Harry Belafonte. It really doesn't sound the same but it is about going through a village, selling things, etc. I must go listen to some high life. Does it have cornet?
Rain Shower is a blues song but it sounds jazzier to me than a straight ahead blues song despite what Ntozake says. It's good. Maybe it's sort of a walking blues song. The cornet sounds good in this song but I really think it adds a jazz element that pulls it a little bit aways from the blues. This is not bad though.

Now the sound of Natchez Shopping Blues is definitely like a blues song. It sounds like older blues, sparse, a guitar, vocals, that's it. However I don't understand "I bought my eyes from Brooklyn on Herkimer Street" (see the following)

  "I bought my mind and soul on the river
   I bought my heart in Nashville Tennesee
   I bought my legs on the ocean, about Newport
   I bought my arms on the Seven Seas
   I bought my eyes in Brooklyn on Herkimer Street"
Okay, metaphors, a vision, I must think about this more.

The rhythm speeds up a bit on Your Lips which is a really good song. Love and great images, particularly
  "Your Lips
   Your Lips
   Your Lips
   Your lips are juicy"
and "Your lips are Louisiana plums." . . . "They glow at night." My goodness, such a steamy scene. Good beat to the whole thing.

Starting out with some really enjoyable cornet work by Olu Dara Harlem Country Girl slows things down again. I would definitely place this back in the jazz area. However it makes me think a little bit of some pieces by Taj Mahal, which have a blues element but could easily be seen as having jazz elements also. On top of it all is some very pleasant guitar work. Hey, the lyrics are good too.

Okay, Zora I'd say would be blues. Ntozake says, I believe, that this song relates to Zora Neale Hurston. Young Mama is another slower, walking pace song. A number of these songs tell stories, about life, about stress, about love, well told.

Bubber (If Only) initially brings to mind songs from The Cotton Club. Don't ask me why. I'm still thinking about it. Then you hear Mayanna Lee singing/saying the lyrics. Very nice voice. Slow, silky. Then comes another song reminiscent of older blues, Father Blues. Good stuff.

Nas, Olu Dara's son, appears for a guest vocal appearance on Jungle Jay. I wouldn't call this rap. I might call it poetry. I would definitely call it another story. I would definitely say it evokes images, not really ones that I'm familiar with though.

The CD finishes with Kiane, trying to have a young child go to sleep. Overall this is a very pleasant and quiet CD. I think I would give it a 6.8 on a scale of 10. It is definitely not raucous but it might be good for driving home after a particularly bad day at work.

I don't see any web site specifically for Olu Dara. There is an interesting review format near the bottom of the page at the Cyber Fusion, home of Jazz Fusion, unfortunately the body of the review is in Japanese and it would take me forever to translate it. Another review can be found at the Charleston Daily Mail site. However the reviewer calls the liner notes pretentious. Well. . . . I suppose you could go there with them. There is some information to be found at the Atlantic Record site but I don't know if it's worth it to get there. They set more cookies than the cookie monster has.

This review was updated on June 2, 1998.


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