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House Of Tudor 

Olu Dara

Wednesday, Apr 4 2001
In 1998, when Olu Dara released his succulent debut album In the World: From Natchez to New York, he was best known as a jazzman who lent his trumpet and cornet to the likes of Sam Rivers and Henry Threadgill, as well as the father of Queensbridge rapper Nas. But In the World was not a jazz record (although it was filled with slinky moments and airborne notes) and it was not a rap effort (even though Dara's son offered up laid-back urban rhymes); it was not even a blues album -- as many people claimed -- although it was steeped in the Mississippi mud of Dara's youth. In actuality, In the World was a cooking record. Lyrically, it brimmed with ripe tomatoes, fresh peas, homemade gravy, pecan pie, hickory, green beans, and wild blackberries. The insert proudly displayed a full-color close-up of Dara's favorite dessert, along with photographs of the gloating musician at a large feast. But the images alone didn't make this an aural confection. In the World had an old-fashioned pace, as slow, warm, and golden as honey flooded with sunlight. It had the sort of tempo that folks who grew up on wooden kitchen floors daydream about and that island dwellers fully understand. Dara seemed uniquely adept at creating the loose, meandering verse that conjured such images -- a talent he discovered while improvising stories between jazz numbers -- as well as directing the deliberate, expert interplay of organ, guitar, conga, saxophone, and cornet that kept the well-worn remembrances in place.

On his recently released second effort, Neighborhoods, Dara tries again to walk through history, taking inventory of old neighborhoods, street vendors, and movie shows. Unfortunately, when it comes to the album's music, he abandons the small corners, boroughs, and islands that comprised his earlier world. Except for the first song -- an African-styled pop celebration called "Massamba" -- the opening half of Neighborhoods finds Dara sounding like a city slicker affecting long-lost country boy charm. Here, his memories are but fragments, offered without smoke, laughter, or fresh cream. Not until the Bahamian folk song "Out on the Rolling Sea" and the elegant and gentle "Tree Blues" are we sure In the World was not just a pleasant fortuity. Olu Dara performs on Saturday, April 7, at the Justice League with Samba Ngo opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10-12; call 440-0409.

Joyfully considered to be the worst film ever made, Plan 9 From Outer Space was probably the pinnacle of Ed Wood's tragicomic oeuvre. Based on the premise that grave robbers from outer space are determined to raise an army of zombies (three in total) to march on the capitals of the world, Plan 9 features performances by Vampira, Bela Lugosi, and renowned psychic medium Jerome King Criswell (as himself). It also includes some of the most wonderfully ridiculous dialogue ever placed in a seriously intended horror movie, such as Criswell's greeting, "My friends, we are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives," and Lt. John Harper (played by the hackneyed Duke Moore) saying, "I'll bet we haven't seen the last of these weirdies." Plan 9 is the sort of unabashedly ambitious and delightfully immature movie that today's independent filmmakers craft only on purpose. (Unless, of course, they are American Movie documentary subject Mark Borchardt.) Still, Ed Wood was first, authentically naive, and ludicrously inspired. To celebrate the director's unintentional genius, "Thrillville" and the Werepad present "A Tribute to Ed Wood." Plan 9 will be shown in 16mm, along with rare and raunchy outtakes from the film. Look-alike contests will be held for Vampira and Glen or Glenda (the titular transvestite from Wood's 1953 film). The tribute will be held on Saturday, April 7, at the Werepad (2430 Third St., between 20th and 21st streets) at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 824-7334.

If Ed Wood were alive today, he'd certainly make good use of the resources offered at the Film Arts Foundation. For over 25 years, the nonprofit has been supplying film equipment to local directors at the lowest possible cost, making it less necessary for fledgling auteurs to sell blood and steal cars. Unfortunately, some crew still saw fit to steal over $14,000 worth of the FAF's rental equipment (I hope its movie is a good one). Since the gear wasn't insured, it's now up to less self-absorbed artists to raise the money to replace it. Jonathan Richman, Persephone's Bees, Cubby Creatures, Brian and Chris, Dura Delinquent, Ugly Baby, and the Resineators are among those donating their time and tunes for the FAF's Facility Anti-Fraud Fundraiser. Even if it weren't a good cause, it would be a good show on Saturday, April 7, at the Film Arts Foundation (346 Ninth St., between Folsom and Harrison) at noon. Tickets are $10-20; call 552-6350.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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