Dorothy played bop with the creme of jazz musicians including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Booker T. Jones. She is best remembered for her pioneering jazz funk studio work in the 1960's. She was befriended by singer Bill Withers, (Lean on Me), who helped her obtain work with Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and other prominent popular musicians. She released nine solo albums in the 60's, the best of which are the three albums for Cadet:
Afro Harping, Cadet LPS-809,
Dorothy's Harp (VERY RARE - choose between a car payment or the vinyl) her personal best in my opinion Cadet LPS-825
Rubaiyat, Cadet LPS-841
I fell in love with Dorothy Ashby as a little girl, and she became my "hero" upon reading about her life. Her father was jazz guitarist and she grew up sitting in on jams with her piano. She took up the harp in high school where she had to share an instrument with many students. After several successful years as a pianist in Detroit jazz clubs, she took a huge risk in realizing her goal of purchasing her own harp and cleverly marketing her trio with free shows and events.
The album, Afro Harping, is a ground-breaking recording because of its merger of classical string arrangements, chunk bass, tight winds and a throbbing drum beat. The ethic of jazz is to internalize the melody long enough to hold it in your soul. Then, in the case of the harp, to literally PULL it from within your body and using your prism, your own paradigm ... directing its energy through the instrument and sending the song's power into the room. Dorothy's prism was lush, quirky, funky and full of nuance.
I have this quote in calligraphy on my harp rehearsal room wall:
"Jazz harp isn't just a novelty, though that is what you expect. The harp has a clean jazz voice with a resonance and syncopation that turn familiar jazz phrasing inside out."
Simply put, this album is an astonishing fusion of what, until Dorothy, seemed inconceivable to jazz aficionados!