By Janice Malone
NASHVILLE, TN — As Nashville continues to grow in population, so does the diversity among the music communities of the city. This is especially the case for the city’s booming jazz scene. Singer/songwriter Dara Tucker is a multi-talented performer whose talents are adding to Nashville’s thriving jazz scene. Ms. Tucker can sing practically any style of music but she’s quickly establishing herself as one of the premiere voices in jazz, not only in Nashville but also on the national scene. From opening for Gregory Porter, to appearing on the Tavis Smiley Show, to winning the silver medal & the Ben Tucker Jazz Award in the prestigious, “American Traditions Competition” (2017), Tucker is making her mark in the world of jazz and beyond with a blend of soul, Americana, Gospel and jazz that is uniquely her own.
In the past few years alone, she was named a finalist in the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Vocal Competition, and won the “Nashville Independent Music Award” for best jazz vocalist. She has performed at several of the top jazz festivals in the nation.
Earlier this summer Dara released her 4th studio album, “Oklahoma Rain,” which showcases her as a formidable songwriter. The project features original songs that pay homage to her hometown state and city of Tulsa, OK. The songs on the album focus on love, loss and healing. In 2014, Dara experienced a life-altering shift when both of her parents, passed away with very little warning. It is from that place of reflection and remembrance that Oklahoma Rain began to take shape. “This is an album about home, sort of that longing to be home, to be with family. At its core, this album is dedicated to growing up in my home state of Oklahoma but it’s also about the grieving process,” shares Dara from her Nashville area home. “The grieving process entails a lot of different things. I wrote one of the songs, ‘Radio,’ just a few months after I lost my dad in March of 2014. My mom died in September of the same year. So, there was only six months between those two devastating deaths. I wrote the song ‘The Game’ probably a year later,” she adds.
Like so many prolific secular singers today, Dara’s roots are deep within the church and gospel music. Both parents were ministers. Her grandmother was raised as a staunch Church of God in Christ member, who later became a strict Holiness Pentecostal minister for 57 years. Dara and some of her siblings later became a much sought-after family gospel singing group, who traveled to sing at churches throughout the country. Despite a rather strict church upbringing, by her teen years, Dara still found a way to listen to some Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind and Fire, Carol King, etc. As Dara recalls: “My mom kind of had her sneaking way of listening to her little Luther Vandross tapes, or Anita Baker tapes here and there. But that was never something she would really do out in the open. Sometimes, she would let us listen to the easy listening station at night. And so, we got exposed to all sorts of instrumental music and stuff. But that kind of lit my fire for a different kind of music than the regular gospel music I grew up with.”
It didn’t take long for Dara’s beloved grandmother to soon discover that her talented granddaughter was singing songs other than The Winans and Andrae Crouch. “Yeah, she found out,” says Dara with a laugh. “She pulled me aside on a couple of occasions and said, ‘I heard you was singing in some places you didn’t need to be singing in.’ I said, ‘Well, grandma, I take the Lord with me wherever I go.’ There’s not much I could say to her, but by that point my parents had loosened the reigns quite a bit about the whole music thing. And by the time I got to be a teenager, they knew I was kind of going in a different direction with my music interests.”
The music world and Dara’s many new-found fans are happy that she added jazz and pop music to her repertoire. She now creates a mosaic of sound that reflects the influences that have helped to shape her since childhood.
For her current ‘Oklahoma Rain’ project, Dara maintains her grounding in jazz by collaborating with some of Nashville’s finest players – Marcus Finnie, Josh Hunt and Derrek Phillips on drums, Matt Endahl, Joe Davidian, Mason Embry and DeMarco Johnson on piano, Rhodes and organ, Kris Karlsson on acoustic guitar, Giovanni Rodriguez on percussion and Greg Bryant on bass. The album is jam-packed with music that’s deep, rich and soothing. But Ms. Tucker says there’s a ‘take away’ message for the listener. “In life, there are ups and downs, happiness, and sorrow. But you will get to a point where you are at a place of resolve with it all.”
Get ‘Oklahoma Rain’ at: www.daratucker.com and facebook.com/daratucker