FEBRUARY 15

Olu Dara is the antidote to a modern blues scene populated by grimacing human Xerox machines whose note-for-note copies of rote licks are accompanied by facial expressions normally seen only during moments of intense indigestion. But as Dara shows on In the World: From Natchez to New York, his music is not only the blues without the bloat, it’s jazz with verve, Afro-pop with grit, and the biggest whiff of fresh air I’ve inhaled in months. Dara has long engaged various styles and mediums, from his stints with ’70s loft-jazz renegades like David Murray, Henry Threadgill, and Sam Rivers, to his stage appearance last Saturday at the Hirshhorn in In Living Colors, the dance-theater production he co-wrote with choreographer Dianne McIntyre and playwright OyamO. Perhaps due to his competing interests, he only recently made In the World, his debut record as a leader. Mind you, it’s worth the wait. The album smoothly crisscrosses from the Afro-Caribbean grooves of “Okra” to the stark, improvised blues of “Zora” to “Jungle,” a collaboration with his hugely successful rapper son, Nas. Holding it all together is Dara’s singular mastery of multiple voices, from cornet, guitar, and vocals to composition and arrangement. Dara opens for chanteuse Cassandra Wilson, a woman who has her own way of melding styles, at 7 p.m. at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. $25-27.50. (202) 994-6800. (Christopher Porter)