April 14, 2015

Dorothy Ashby - The Rubáiyát of Dorothy Ashby, 1970

Singular! Alongside the likes of Alice Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby was one of the first to bring the harp to the jazz scene. Most of her work is generous, harp-centric, free-flowing soul jazz, sans vocals (totally enamored of her take on "The Windmills of Your Mind"); the kind of music to make any social gathering feel like a movie, and any poolside feel like the swankiest lounge. 

Rubáiyát was a radical departure from all of that, and not just because she sings throughout (a shame she didn't sing on more records; her vocal delivery is terrifically elegant and ghostly). Ashby composed Rubáiyát around the poetry of Omar Khayyám, a twelfth century Persian philosopher, and the resulting sound is a sweeping, psychedelic global mash-up, only occasionally veering into kitschy territory. Koto, mbira, flute, timpani, vibraphone, a few searing streaks of guitar, and of course, heavy harp throughout. Swirling, heady, and expansive. Good speakers a must. Also a personal favorite album cover.