Soft Winds: The Swinging Harp of DOROTHY ASHBY
Dorothy Ashby (harp) Terry Pollard (vib) Herman Wright (b) Jimmy Cobb (drs)
Recorded New York; August 15 & 16, 1961
Soft Winds (2:56) (Benny Goodman)
Wild Is the Wind (4:21) (Washington-Tiomkin)
The Man I Love (2:56) (George and Ira Gershwin)
My Ship (3:40) (I. Gershwin-Weill)
Love Is Here to Stay (2:42) (George and Ira Gershwin)
I’ve Never Been in Love Before (2:27) (Frank Loesser)
With Strings Attached (2:25) (Dorothy Ashby)
Laura (2:59) (Mercer-Raksin)
The Guns of Navarone (2:15) (Dimitri Tiomkin)
Misty (2:42) (Erroll Garner)
The Gypsy in My Soul (2:49) (Jaffe-Boland)
This album is a wonderful illustration of what Leonard Feather, eminent music critic and champion of the female’s rights in jazz, has been yelling about for years. It reiterates the lesson that has taught us not say: “She plays good for a girl.”
For those of you who still harbor some prejudice against the fair sex’s ability ot play convincing jazz, this might be a good time to shed this medieval attitude. At the same time, the listener who is leery of the harp as a jazz instrument, previously regarding its music as a necessary interlude in a Marx Brothers movie, is also in for a few surprises.
Dorothy Ashby may not be the first jazz harpist (Casper Reardon) or the first female jazz harpist (Adele Girad), but her good feeling for time and ability to construct melodic, guitar-like lines, mark her as the most accomplished modern jazz harpist. Apropos of her relation to the guitar, Orrin Keepnews paid her a high compliment when he said that she reminded him of Wes Montgomery. Certainly, she pays no homage to other harpists, but has named pianists Billy Taylor, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing as early favorites.
Piano was, in fact, Miss Ashby’s first instrument. She studied it from the age of 11. At Cass Tech High in her native Detroit, she became interested in the harp and at Wayne University, where she was majoring in music education, she played it in the concert band and orchestra.
Forgetting about the teaching profession, Dorothy, as pianist and vocalist, earned enough money on various gigs to buy a harp of her own, whereupon she formed her own combo. She has played in both the east and Midwest, but, for the most part, has elected to stay in Detroit, where she has worked in 1961-62 at a place called the Dome. In August, 1961, she took time out to visit New York and record this album.
Accompanying her was another Detroit girl, Terry Pollard. Miss Pollard, best known for her piano and vibes work with Terry Gibbs from 1953 to 1957, has been firmly situated in her home town since then and, for over a year, has led her own trio at the Hobby Bar.
Terry’s main instrument is the piano and she is one of the best in the country, bar none. She is also a pretty fair country vibraharpist (that country being Jazzland, of course), and in this et, Miss Pollard plays vibes exclusively, blending her buoyant bells with the sensitive strings of Miss Ashby’s harp. With them is still another Detroiter, Herman Wright, who like Miss Pollard has worked with Terry Gibbs and Yusef Lateef, and who also served as Miss Ashby’s regular bassist for some time before taking on his most recent assignment, which was with George Shearing. Completing the quartet is Jimmy Cobb (from New York via Washington, D.C.), drummer for the Miles Davis group. During the proceedings, Cobb travels between brushes and sticks without upsetting the equilibrium of this essentially quiet set.
There is wide range of material presented here, from blues like Benny Goodman’s title number, Soft Winds, and Miss Ashby’s With Strings Attached, to movie themes such as Laura, Wild is the Wind and The Guns of Navarone. Then there are works by such superior writers of standards Kurt Weill (My ship); Gershwin (The Man I Love and Love Is Here to Stay); Erroll Garner (Misty); and Frank Loesser (I’ve Never Been in Love Before). The girls take turns playing lead, which adds still further variety to the different moods and tempi.
Recently, on the liner of a Sonny Red Jazzland album, I wrote about how many fine jazz men Detroit has given to the world at large. This album proves that in addition to its jazzmen. Detroit has some of the hippest jazz women going – except that they are staying. That’s to Detroit’s advantage. It is to our advantage that there are occasional “Soft Winds” to waft them in our direction.
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 961) and Monaural (JLP 61) form
Produced by JOHN LEVY
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Mastered by NEAL CEPPOS
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILLGRAUER PRODUCTINS, Inc.
(Producers of Riverside Records)
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York