“How many of you have never heard of Dakota Staton?”
I have always heard and repeated – with a long 'A'
vowel – the pronunciation of: Staton. Yet, even Mr. Barker is not exactly sure how to state the name of an artist whom he obviously respected; even though she was not of his generation. (It would be like me talking about, Alicia Keyes – but, ten years from now.)
Dakota Staton was a big enough star by the 1960's that even my father had a 12"
copy of, Dakota Staton WITH STRINGS in his own minute record collection. The LP was purchased by someone, from the 'cut-out' bin. Nevertheless, by that afternoon in 1976 – when Mr. Barker was speaking to the Xavier Students about this potent Capitol Records artist, I was excavating the LP with her smiling head amidst glowing dots of “lounge lights.” After considering my past, I now say that 'with strings' was the first Jazz Vocal record that I ever heard. I'm so grateful to have it now; I Thought About You, sounds divine spinning on my Denon... drifting classically through my Klipsch 'corner horns' here at Maison Musique.
Dakota Staton was born June 3rd, 1930 in Pittsburg and studied at the Filion School of Music. Mr. Barker – I'm guessing – got hip to her once she got to Harlem and worked regular at a club called the Baby Grand. From there, Staton was signed to a productive recording contract under which such records as: Time To Swing, and a landmark LP with George Shearing, In The Night, began their journey's: some to horny guys' record players, others to cut-out bins... onward to vinyl-cardboard grave yards across America.
Staton was apparently influenced greatly by Billie Holiday. It is the song stylists like Staton and, Dinah Washington who gave to the legacy just enough blues again – and not enough church still – that would make way for Aretha and her descendants. Incidentally, a great vocalist now on the scene (that most listeners outside of New Orleans don't know about,) Betty Shirley has Dakota within her.
In the midst of her ascending light, Dakota Staton in 1958 marries an Antiguan Muslim, Talib Ahmad Dawud, also a trumpeter. She adopts the name, Aliyah Rabia. Danny Barker was not a great admirer of Islam, particularly the variety that he knew most of; that being the Jazzman who rejects his own legacy, in favor of Allah. (We will turn to this subject in the next coming weeks.) Still, Mr. Barker seems to attribute some of Staton's inevitable obscurity to her becoming, “totally confused.”
Dakota Staton died April 10th, 2007; I don't know whom, if anyone, she was calling upon when. The closest that I ever came to hearing her live was during my times in New York ('85-'99) where, as Mr. Barker said it: “now and then, she might appear” – from the sidewalk outside of Sweet Basil's Monday night bandstand, or heard talk about her singing around the piano at an up-scale east side bar where it was said that: “young entrepreneurs met older investors.”
Dear Reader, with the hopes that you will consider any of this to be of worth to you, I would like you to hear the track that Mr. Barker played for the students. You can find Dakota Staton's, Country Man, by going to my Main Page
Peace & Pops,
Maison Musique, New Orleans
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