DURING “FIRST FRIDAY” FESTIVITIES


            Several years ago, Tulsa native Dara Tucker was living in Switzerland, working as an au pair and beginning to seriously write songs, when she saw a story on CNN International that changed the direction of her life.

            “It was an interview with Wynonna Judd, and she was kind of complaining,” recalls Tucker. “They asked her why she hadn’t put out an album in so long, and she said, `It’s just songs. I’m waiting for great songs. We need more great writers in Nashville.’

            “So I thought, `Well, Nashville isn’t too far from Oklahoma, and it’s not too big, like New York or L.A. And it’s got a lot of cool things going on as far as music is concerned.’ And I thought, `Okay, why not check out Nashville?’ I wasn’t married at the time, I didn’t have any children, so it was just kind of a leap of faith, really.”

            Like some other leaps of faith, this one has worked out. While she hasn’t placed a song with Wynonna – at least, not yet – Tucker has become a mainstay of the town’s jazz scene, which she describes as “burgeoning.” She’s also released a CD called All Right Now and is preparing a second one, which will showcase several of her own compositions. In addition, she’s played engagements in high-profile venues like the Blue Note Jazz Club and the Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York City.

            Not bad for a vocalist who didn’t sing jazz until nine years ago, when she made her way to Music City from overseas. That doesn’t mean, however, that she had no experience performing music for crowds.

            “I have seven brothers and sisters, and we sang together as children, sang harmonies together in church,” she explains. “My parents were in ministry for most of my childhood; my dad was a music minister with Faith Christian Fellowship, which was out on 36th Street North in Tulsa. Then, he worked in music-ministry development for quite a while, and we ended up moving around. When he would start choirs, he would plant each of us in a section of the choir to help teach the parts.”

            Later, she would attend Oral Roberts University, singing in the school’s gospel choir, Souls A’ Fire, and ultimately earning a degree in international business and German studies. Her gospel choir experience, she says, “really pushed me and challenged me and made me a better singer.”

            Still, when the time came to look for a job, she went into the corporate-language field instead of music. Her job took her to Detroit, where she was involved in what she termed “cross-cultural training” in the auto industry, teaching employees foreign languages and helping them get settled in other countries. That was followed by her time in Switzerland, where she took the au pair job as a means toward immersing herself in the German language.

            “It was really an isolating time,” she recalls. “And I think it caused me to go deep and do some introspection about who I was and what my direction was in life.”

            That period led to her first attempts at serious songwriting, and ultimately to the notion that perhaps she could make it as a singer and writer. She’d been listening to jazz and standards since her high school days – “under the radar,” she laughs, “because we weren’t allowed to listen to secular music, technically” – but she’d never performed them until she got to Nashville, when she began her professional singing career. As demand for her singing rose, she began mixing in her original compositions with favorites from the Great American Songbook; that’s the kind of show she plans for the Jazz Depot, buttressed by a couple of the musicians she regularly uses in her Nashville jobs.

            “I think we’ll be bringing our own piano player, Karlton Taylor,” she says. “And my husband, Greg Bryant, is the bass player.”

            Tucker still has family in and around Tulsa, including her father, to whom she’s grateful for not disapproving of the direction her singing career has taken.

            “He grew up Pentecostal, and he had a very, very strict upbringing,” she notes. “There was absolutely no secular music whatsoever allowed in their house. So I’d say he did pretty well in opening up to some other things.

            “He loves what I do now,” she adds. “He loves it.”                  

            Dara Tucker is set to begin her show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 5, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St.  Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-1008. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.  

            The event is a part of the Tulsa Arts District’s First Friday celebration.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.


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