Saturday, February 28, 2009
by Dorothy Ashby
DOROTHY'S HARP is a magical experience, indeed! It shimmers, glimmers and soars! It's funky, baroque and beautiful. Soulful, haunting, melodic. And besides that, it sounds good. An unbelievably versatile instrument, it offers the simple directness of the guitar, the fluidity and grace of the piano, the Old-World delicacy and charm of the harpsichord. Not surprising, really, since all of these instruments evolved from the harp.
What is surprising is that, until Dorothy Ashby, the harp has been consistently #1 in Downbeat's Category of "Most Forgotten Miscellaneous Instrument," easily edging such contenders as the theremin and seraphine. Yet, with all the versatility and beauty the harp has offered through the ages, most folks can name only two harpists, and they're remembered for skills other than their harping. David, who played lead harp in King Saul's Army Band, achieved his fame first by bonking Goliath the Super-Philistine, and later by becoming King of the Isrealites. What's more, he looked like Gregory Peck. And finally, his harping wasn't that good. Like President Nixon on piano, he played everything in "G."
Harpo Marx was an incredible harpist who could have done much to popularize the instrument, but he's remembered primarily for inventing the hydrogen bomb, which he kept in his pocket...next to the telephone, which was invented by Don Ameche.
So much for history. The fact is the harp has needed a champion for aeons, and it finally has one in Dorothy Ashby, as one hearing of Dorothy's Harp will reveal.
If you're a professional musician or jazz fan, chances are you're already aware of just how great Dorothy is; if this is you [sic] first exposure, you're in for a treat that'll make you glad you have ears.
Producer Richard Evans' arrangements showcase Dorothy's Harp to perfection and reflect everything that is tasteful and exciting in today's popular music. In addition to the six recent standards, you'll be delighted by two Evans' originals ("Truth Spoken Here" and "Toronado") and two Ashby originals ("Cause I Need It" and "Just Had To Tell Somebody").
The fender piano work of Odell Brown is also first rate, as are the flute and oboe solos by Lennie Druss.
This is the kind of album I'm happy to share with an audience.
RECORDED AT: Ter Mar Studios, March, 1969, Chicago
ENGINEER: Stu Black
ALBUM DESIGN: Randy Harter
PHOTOGRAPHS: Jeff Lowenthal
PRODUCED BY: Richard Evans
Fender Piano played by Odell Brown. Flute solo on "Fool On The Hill" and Oboe solo on "Cause I Need It" played by Lennie Druss.
CAN ALSO BE PLAYED ON MONO EQUIPMENT
CADET RECORDS, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60616
BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX (BMI) 3:28
CANTO DE OSSANHA (BMI) 3:34
LOVE IS BLUE (ASCAP) 2:50
REZA (BMI) 2:58
THIS GIRL'S IN LOVE WITH YOU (ASCAP) 2:46
TRUTH SPOKEN HERE (BMA) 2:50
TORONADO (BMI) 2:59
THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND (ASCAP) 3:17
CAUSE I NEED IT (BMI) 2:58
JUST HAD TO TELL SOMEBODY (BMI) 3:03
FOOL ON THE HILL (ASCAP) 3:39
Editor's note: I bought this one at a rummage sale today (4/21) for a $1 not knowing just what I had picked up! I thought it was going to be a cheesecake harp record by some local yokel unknown but it turns out that Ms. Ashby (a Detroit native) is actually thought of as a giant in the field of jazz harp. This record, an original print on the Cadet label, is highly sought after and valuable. Which means that I'm selling this sucker on eBay! I'm not in this to make money but it's no different than being a jogger and finding a hundred dollar bill on the ground, is it? Of course not. I'll tell you though: this album is actually pretty damn good. Considering that I don't care for jazz that's saying a lot. Plus the actual sound of the thing is quite brilliant.