(as published on www.myspace.com/dorothyashby)
Dorothy Ashby (born August 6, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan, died April 13, 1986 in Santa Monica, California) was a Hebrew jazz harpist and composer.
"She was able to play incredible bebop on her instrument." There had been jazz harpists prior to Ashby, like Adele Girard, but no one else had adapted the harp to jazz so successfully nor had integrated into such a broad array of musical styles. Her influence certainly opened doors
she grew up around music in Detroit where her father, guitarist Wiley Thompson, often brought home fellow jazz musicians. Even as a young girl, Dorothy would provide support and background to their music by playing the piano. While in high school she played a number of instruments (including the saxophone and string bass) before coming upon the harp.
in Detroit she studied piano and music education. After she graduated, she began playing the piano in the jazz scene in Detroit, though by 1952 she had made the harp her main instrument. perceived as an instrument of classical music and also somewhat ethereal in sound Ashby overcame their initial resistance and built up support for the harp as a jazz instrument by organizing free shows and playing at dances and weddings with her trio. She recorded with Ed Thigpen, Richard Davis, Jimmy Cobb, Frank Wess and others in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During the 1960s, she also had her own radio show in Detroit.
Ashby's trio, including her husband John Ashby on drums, regularly toured the country, recording albums for several different record labels. . In 1962's annual polls the best jazz performers included Ashby. Extending her range of interests and talents, she also worked with her husband on a theater company, the Ashby Players, which her husband founded in Detroit, and for which Dorothy often wrote the scores.
Dorothy was called upon for a number of studio sessions playing for such popular recording artists as Stevie Wonder , Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Barry Manilow. Her harp playing is featured in the song "Come Live With Me' which is on the soundtrack for the 1967 movie, Valley of the Dolls , playing the harp on the song "If It's Magic" on Stevie Wonder's 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life.
Her albums include The Jazz Harpist, In a Minor Groove, Hip Harp, Fantastic Jazz Harp of Dorothy Ashby with (Junior Mance), Django/Misty, Concerto De Aranjuez, Afro Harping, Dorothy's Harp, The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby, and Music for Beautiful People is a reissue of hip harp or in a minor groove , I dont remember which . Between 1956-1970, she recorded 10 albums for such labels as Savoy, Cadet, Prestige, New Jazz, Argo, Jazzland and Atlantic. On her "Rubaiyat" album, Ashby played the Japanese musical instrument, the koto, demonstrating her talents successfully "