Album Review

Ashby, Dorothy – ?The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby? – [Cadet Records] – 33 rpm

Hunter Gatherer   10/4/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Dorothy Ashby (1932 – 1986) was a great jazz harpist. Rubaiyat is the last in a series of 10 albums that she recorded between ’56 and ’70. It’s a follow-up to Afro-Harping, which we have in Jazz/12″. She also played harp on popular recordings for Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder (If It’s Magic from Songs In The Key of Life), and Earth, Wind, & Fire.

Rubaiyat means quatrains in Persian and in this case it refers specifically to the poetry of Omar Khayyam, which influenced Ms. Ashby in the writing and recording of this album.

The Middle-eastern influence is apparent, which is amazing considering that she is pulling the sounds out of a harp accompanied by very few non-Western instruments. On Joyful Grass and Grape and For Some We Loved, she plays the koto (pictured on the front of the album). A thumb piano called a kalimba is also on a few tracks.

The feel of the album is dreamy and spiritual with Ms. Ashby‘s sweet, soulful vocals (sounding like the soundtrack to a spy movie at times). The backing percussion and rhythm guitar and string arrangements can sound kind of lounge-y and dated at times, but the soulful middle-eastern vibe comes through for the most part. If you give yourself up to this album, you won’t be sorry.

My favorite track by far is The Moving Finger (B5), which starts out with a spooky chant (now I know where Troubleman got it on Time Out Of Mind) and settles into some Eastern Soul with harp and fuzz guitar solos. This track is heavily sampled and sought after.

Almost every song has lyrics or a title about drinking or getting high. Not good music to abstain to.

–Hunter Gatherer

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