|Birth name||Charles Jones III|
|Born||January 12, 1941|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, cornet|
|Associated acts||Nas, Bravehearts, AZ|
Olu Dara was born Charles Jones III January 12, 1941, in Natchez, Mississippi. His mother, Ella Mae, was born in 1911 in Canton, Mississippi. His father, Charles Jones II, also born in Natchez, was a travelling musician, and sang with The Melodiers, a vocal quartet with a guitarist.
From 1959 to 1963 he was a musician in the Navy, which he described as a priceless educational experience.
In 1964, he moved to New York City and changed his name to Olu Dara, which means "God is good" in the Yoruba language. 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.
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.
With Charles Brackeen
With Rhys Chatham
- 1984 Factor X
- 1987 Die Donnergötter (The Thundergods)
With Carlos Garnett
- 1975 Let This Melody Ring On (Muse)
- 1977 Fire
With Corey Harris
- 2002 Downhome Sophisticate
- 2005 Daily Bread
With Craig Harris
With David Murray
- Flowers for Albert: The Complete Concert (India Navigation, 1976)
- Ming (Black Saint, 1980)
- Home (Black Saint, 1981)
- Live at Sweet Basil Volume 1 (Black Saint, 1984)
- Live at Sweet Basil Volume 2 (Black Saint, 1984)
- The Tip (DIW, 1995)
- Jug-A-Lug (DIW, 1995)
- 1994 Illmatic
- 2002 God's Son
- 2004 Bridging the Gap
- 2004 Street's Disciple
With Jamaaladeen Tacuma
- 1983 Show Stopper
- 1984 Renaissance Man
With Henry Threadgill
With James Blood Ulmer
- Are You Glad to Be in America? (1980)
- Free Lancing (1981)
- No Escape from the Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions (2003)
With Cassandra Wilson
- 1970 Journey to Air, Terumasa Hino
- 1970 Who Knows What Tomorrow's Gonna Bring?, Jack McDuff
- 1973 Ethnic Expressions, Roy Brooks
- 1973 Revelation, Doug Carn
- 1975 Heavy Spirits, Oliver Lake
- 1977 Endangered Species, Hamiet Bluiett
- 1978 Live at Moers Festival, Phillip Wilson
- 1980 Flat-Out Jump Suite, Julius Hemphill
- 1982 Flying Out, Cecil McBee
- 1982 Nots, Elliott Sharp
- 1983 Nona, Nona Hendryx
- 1985 The African Flower, James Newton
- 1985 The Sixth Sense, Don Pullen
- 1993 Deconstruction: Celluloid Recordings, Bill Laswell
- 1997 KC After Dark, Kansas City Band
- 1998 Empire Box, Tim Berne
- 1998 You Don't Know My Mind, Guy Davis
- 2002 Medicated Magic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band
- 2002 Trance Atlantic (Boom Bop II), Jean-Paul Bourelly
- 2003 Chinatown, The Be Good Tanyas
- 2007 The Harlem Experiment, The Harlem Experiment
- 2007 This Is Where You Wanna Be, The Brawner Brothers
- Dara, Olu (Winter 1998). "Olu Dara". Bomb (Interview) (62). Interviewed by Tracie Morris. Archived from the original on December 8, 2009 – via bombsite.com.
- Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (October 29, 2014). "Nas' Interactive Family Tree". Finding Your Roots. PBS. Archived from the original on December 10, 2015.
- Skelly, Richard J. (January 30, 2002). "Olu Dara's Trip: From Natchez to New York". U.S. 1. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
- Kelsey, Chris. "Olu Dara". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
- Dreisinger, Baz (December 5, 2004). "Nas and His Dad's Jazz". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
- "Olu Dara | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2017.