Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby Rar

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Background information
Birth nameDorothy Jeanne Thompson
BornAugust 6, 1932
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedApril 13, 1986 (aged 53)
Santa Monica, California
InstrumentsHarp, piano, koto

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Dorothy Jeanne Thompson (August 6, 1932 – April 13, 1986),[1][2][3] better known as Dorothy Ashby, was an American jazzharpist and composer.[4] Hailed as one of the most 'unjustly under loved jazz greats of the 1950s'[5] and the 'most accomplished modern jazz harpist,'[6] Ashby established the harp as an improvising jazz instrument, beyond earlier use as a novelty or background orchestral instrument, proving the harp could play bebop as adeptly as the instruments commonly associated with jazz, such as the saxophone or piano.[7]

Ashby had to overcome many obstacles during the pursuit of her career.[8] As an African American female musician in a male dominated industry, she was at a disadvantage. In a 1983 interview with W. Royal Stokes for his book Living the Jazz Life, she remarked of her career, 'It's been maybe a triple burden in that not a lot of women are becoming known as jazz players. There is also the connection with black women. The audiences I was trying to reach were not interested in the harp, period—classical or otherwise—and they were certainly not interested in seeing a black woman playing the harp.'[9] Ashby successfully navigated these disadvantages, and subsequently aided in the expansion of who was listening to harp music and what the harp was deemed capable of producing as an instrument.[10]

Ashby's albums were of the jazz genre, but often moved into R&B, world music, and other styles, especially her 1970 album The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby, where she demonstrates her talents on another instrument, the Japanese koto, successfully integrating it into jazz.[11]

  • 2Discography


Dorothy Thompson grew up around music in Detroit, where her father, guitarist Wiley Thompson, often brought home fellow jazz musicians.[12] Even as a young girl, she would provide support and background to their music by playing the piano. She attended Cass Technical High School,[13] where fellow students included such future musical talents and jazz greats as Donald Byrd, Gerald Wilson, and Kenny Burrell. While in high school she played a number of instruments (including the saxophone and string bass) before coming upon the harp.

She attended Wayne State University in Detroit, where she studied piano and music education.[14] 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.[15] At first her fellow jazz musicians were resistant to the idea of adding the harp, which they perceived as an instrument of classical music and somewhat ethereal in sound in jazz performances. So Ashby overcame their initial resistance and built support for the harp as a jazz instrument by organizing free shows and playing at dances and weddings with her trio.[15] She recorded with Jimmy Cobb, Ed Thigpen, Richard Davis, Frank Wess and others in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[16] During the 1960s, she also had her own radio show in Detroit where she would occasionally perform live shows with her husband, and talk.[17]

Ashby partially contributed to the spread of unstereotypical music education in Detroit, Michigan during 1967. Robert H. Klotman, a divisional director of music education was inspired by her and Cass Technical Highschool’s harp and vocal ensemble, placing 10 Troubadour harps in 5 inner city schools.[18]

Ashby's trio, including her husband, John Ashby, on drums, regularly toured the country, recording albums for several record labels.[19] She played with Louis Armstrong and Woody Herman, among others. In 1962, Ashby won Down Beat magazine's critics' and readers' awards for best jazz performers.[11] Extending her range of interests and talents, she also worked with her husband in a theater company, the Ashby Players, which her husband founded in Detroit, and for which Dorothy often wrote the scores.[19] In the 1960s Dorothy Ashby, together with her husband, formed a theatrical group to produce plays that would be relevant to the African-American community of Detroit. This production group went by several names depending on the theater production.

They created a series of theatrical musical plays that Dorothy and John Ashby produced together as this theatrical company, the Ashby Players of Detroit.[19] In the case of most of the plays, John Ashby wrote the scripts and Dorothy Ashby wrote the scores.[16] Dorothy Ashby also played harp and piano on the soundtracks to all of her plays. She starred in the production of the play '3–6–9' herself. Most of the music that she wrote for these plays is available only on a handful of the reel to reel tapes that Dorothy Ashby recorded herself. Only a couple of the many songs she created for her plays later appeared on LPs that she released. Later in her career, she would make recordings and perform at concerts primarily to raise money for the Ashby Players theatrical productions.

The theatrical production group 'The Ashby Players' not only produced black theater in Detroit and Canada but provided early theatrical and acting opportunities for black actors. Ernie Hudson (of Ghostbusters 1 actor, credited as Earnest L. Hudson) was a featured actor in the Artists Productions version of the play 3–6–9. In the late 1960s, the Ashbys gave up touring and settled in California, where Dorothy broke into the studio recording system as a harpist through the help of the soul singer Bill Withers, who recommended her to Stevie Wonder. As a result, she was called upon for a number of studio sessions playing for more pop-oriented acts.[17]

Ashby died from cancer on April 13, 1986, in Santa Monica, California. Her recordings have proven influential in various genres. The High Llamas recorded a song entitled 'Dorothy Ashby' on their 2007 album Can Cladders. Hip-hop artists have sampled her work often, including Jurassic 5, on their album Feedback, as well as Andre Nickatina on his song 'Jungle'. Bonobo included the track 'Essence of Sapphire' on his mix album Late Night Tales.


As leader[edit]

  • 1957: The Jazz Harpist (Regent)
  • 1958: Hip Harp (Prestige) – with Frank Wess
  • 1958: In a Minor Groove (New Jazz) – with Frank Wess
  • 1961: Soft Winds (Jazzland)
  • 1962: Dorothy Ashby (Argo)
  • 1965: The Fantastic Jazz Harp of Dorothy Ashby (Atlantic)
  • 1968: Afro-Harping (Cadet)
  • 1969: Dorothy's Harp (Cadet)
  • 1970: The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby (Cadet)
  • 1984: Django/Misty (Philips)
  • 1984: Concierto de Aranjuez (Philips)

As sidewoman[edit]

With Bill Withers

  • +'Justments (Columbia, 1974)

With Bobbi Humphrey

  • Fancy Dancer (Blue Note, 1975)

With Minnie Riperton

  • Adventures in Paradise (Epic, 1975)

With Wade Marcus

  • Metamorphosis (ABC/Impulse!, 1976)

With Stanley TurrentineDeadlands reloaded wiki.

  • Everybody Come on Out (Fantasy, 1976)

With Stevie Wonder

  • Songs in the Key of Life (Motown, 1976)

With Sonny Criss

  • Warm & Sonny (Impulse!, 1977)

With Gene Harris

  • Tone Tantrum (Blue Note, 1977)

With Freddie Hubbard

  • Bundle of Joy (Columbia, 1977)

With Billy Preston

  • Late at Night (Motown, 1979)

With Bobby Womack

  • The Poet (Beverly Glenn, 1981)
  • The Poet II(Beverly Glenn, 1984)

With Osamu Kitajima

  • The Source (1984)

See Also[edit]


  1. ^Wynn, Ron (1994), Ron Wynn (ed.), All Music Guide to Jazz, M. Erlewine, V. Bogdanov, San Francisco: Miller Freeman, p. 49, ISBN0-87930-308-5
  2. ^Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2006) [1992]. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (8th ed.). New York: Penguin. p. 48. ISBN0-1410-2327-9.
  3. ^Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian (2004). The Rough Guide to Jazz. Rough Guides (3rd ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 28. ISBN9781843532569.
  4. ^Scott Yanow. 'Dorothy Ashby Biography & History'. AllMusic. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  5. ^Moon, Tom (November 15, 2006). 'Dorothy Ashby and a Harp That Swings'. National Public Radio.
  6. ^Placksin, Sally (1982). American Women in Jazz: 1900 to the Present. New York: Seaview Books. p. 239.
  7. ^Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 22. ISBN0-141-00646-3.
  8. ^Stokes, W. Royal (2000). Living the Jazz Life. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 157.
  9. ^Stokes, W. Royal (2000). Living the Jazz Life. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 158.
  10. ^Rensch, Roslyn (2007) [1989]. Harps and Harpists. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 285.
  11. ^ abJohnson, David (March 31, 2017). 'The Fantastic Jazz Harp of Dorothy Ashby'. Indiana Public Media. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  12. ^Stokes, W. Royal (2000). Living the Jazz Life. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 157.
  13. ^Stokes, W. Royal (September 19, 1983). 'Jazz &'. Washington Post. ISSN0190-8286. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  14. ^'Ashby, Dorothy (1932-1986) The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed'. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  15. ^ abPlacksin, Sally (1982). American Women in Jazz: 1900 to the Present. New York: Seaview Books. p. 241.
  16. ^ abLarkin, Colin (2009). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN9780195313734.
  17. ^ abBoyd, Herb (June 14, 2018). 'Jazz harpist and composer Dorothy Ashby'. Amsterdam News. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  18. ^Froude, Velma (1969). 'Not Only Little Angels Play the Harp'. Music Educators Journal. 56 (2): 37–38. doi:10.2307/3392585. ISSN0027-4321.
  19. ^ abcPlacksin, Sally (1982). American Women in Jazz: 1900 to the Present. New York: Seaview Books. p. 242.

External links[edit]

  • Dorothy Ashby (biography from
  • Dorothy Ashby's Ashby Players Black Theater (A selection of Ashby Players flyers, programs, and posters on Flickr)
Retrieved from ''
The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby
Studio album by
Released1970, 2007 (reissue)
RecordedNovember 1969 – January 1970
Ter Mar Studios, Chicago
GenreJazz, Jazz fusion, Ethno jazz, Experimental jazz
LPS-841Dusty Groove (reissue)[1]
DGA 3002
ProducerRichard Evans
Dorothy Ashby chronology
Dorothy's Harp
The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby

The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby (subtitled Original compositions inspired by the words of Omar Khayyam, arranged and conducted by Richard Evans) is an album by jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby recorded in late 1969 and early 1970 and released on the Cadet label.[2] On this album, Ashby plays the Japanese musical instrument, the koto, demonstrating her abilities to successfully integrate another instrument into jazz.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Record Collector[5]

Atmel cpld software. Reviewing the album for AllMusic, Thom Jurek writes: 'this is a head record. Time and space are suspended and new dimensions open up for anyone willing to take this killer little set on and let it spill its magic into the mind canal through the ears. Depending on how much of a jazz purist you are will give you a side to debate the place of this set in Ashby's catalogue. For those who remain open, this may be her greatest moment on record …'[4]

A reviewer of Dusty Groove stated 'Incredible work from the amazing Dorothy Ashby – a brilliant set of funky and spiritual tunes, set to full backings from Chicago soul arranger Richard Evans! This album is easily one of Ashby's greatest, and it's dedicated to the writings of Omar Khayyam – one of the forces guiding Dorothy's more spiritual sound at the end of the 60s, clearly opened up in a way that's not unlike the direction of Alice Coltrane's work, but a lot more focused and a lot more funky! Ashby not only plays her usual jazz harp, but also koto as well, and even sings a bit too – and the larger group directed by Evans features work by Stu Katz on vibes and kalimba, Lenny Druss on flutes, and Cash McCall on guitar – all in a groove that's really a precursor to the Earth Wind & Fire generation of the Chicago scene!'[7]

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Dorothy Ashby.

  1. 'Myself When Young' - 5:16
  2. 'For Some We Loved' - 4:02
  3. 'Wax and Wane' - 4:25
  4. 'Drink' - 2:30
  5. 'Wine' - 3:56
  6. 'Dust' - 2:51
  7. 'Joyful Grass and Grape' - 3:38
  8. 'Shadow Shapes' - 3:32
  9. 'Heaven and Hell' - 3:10
  10. 'The Moving Finger' - 5:39


  • Dorothy Ashby – harp, koto, vocals
  • Lenny Druss – flute, oboe, piccolo flute (tracks 1-5 & 10)
  • Cliff Davis – alto saxophone (track 10)
  • Stu Katz – vibraphone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 6 & 8-10)
  • Cash McCall – guitar (track 10)
  • Fred Katz – kalimba (tracks 2, 3 & 10)
  • Ed Green – violin (track 2)
  • Unidentified orchestra arranged and conducted by Richard Evans


  1. ^'Dorothy Ashby – The Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby'. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  2. ^Cadet Album Discography (1965–1971) accessed May 13, 2013
  3. ^'Dorothy Ashby'. December 7, 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  4. ^ abJurek, Thom AllMusic review accessed May 13, 2013.
  5. ^'Dorothy Ashby – Rubaiyat Of CD Album' > 'Product Review(s)'. CD Universe/Muze. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
  6. ^'Dorothy Ashby: The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby'. Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  7. ^'Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby'. Dusty Groove. Retrieved 17 June 2018.

External links[edit]

Retrieved from ''