Friday, September 27, 2013
AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Dorothy Ashby
I guess with electronic instruments ability to create any sound, the harp isn't used much in music anymore. And even when it was, it was never a lead instrument unless you count Harpo Marx playing it in Marx Bros. movies. Dorothy Ashby brought the harp to jazz in the 50s. She was mainly a session musician but she recorded a handful of albums including Afro-Harping in 1968. She was born Dorothy Thompson Aug. 6, 1930 in Detroit. He father was jazz guitarist Wiley Thompson and she met many jazz musicians when she was a child. Dorothy attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit along with Donald Byrd and Kenny Burrell. She tried several instruments before discovering the harp. She studied piano at Wayne State University and after graduating, she started playing piano in Detroit jazz clubs. Then she started bringing her harp. Musicians were resistant at first. They thought it was a classical music instrument. But Dorothy was really good and the harp was accepted when she played it. Dorothy recorded a few albums on labels like Prestige. Among the musicians who played on her albums were drummer Ed Thigpen, bassist Richard Davis and sax player Frank Wess. Dorothy toured with her husband drummer John Ashby and continued to record in the 60s. She also hosted a radio show in Detroit. And Dorothy and her husband founded the theater group The Ashby Players. She usually wrote and performed the music for all the plays. One actor who started out with The Ashby Players was Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters. In the late 60s, Dorothy recorded three albums for the Chess label Cadet Records. Afro-Harping was the first of those albums in 1968. Games is one of Dorothy's own compositions. The producer is Richard Evans who normally worked with guys like guitarist Phil Upchurch. The musicians are not identified. This album was released on CD by Verve in 2003. It's worth checking out. Dorothy and her family moved to Los Angeles in the late 60s and she became a studio musician. Bill Withers introduced her to Stevie Wonder and Dorothy played on the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life and on plenty of other recordings. Dorothy Ashby died of cancer on Apr. 13, 1986 at age 55. Her range of influence might surprise some as she played on a lot of sessions. Here's a video for Games by Dorothy Ashby.