With the influence of jazz music on the 1950’s, the influx of largely populated areas of immigrant and minority musicians came a new dissection of genre and quickly changed almost overnight. Dorothy Ashby was a part of that movement with a surprising instrument choice, an oversized, operatic harp as her tool of decision. While not a majority of people were an audience to the harp, Afro-Harping is a record that stands behind the walls of the mainstreams and attaches to the fine roots of jazz history.
While she has a “triple burden” within the community as she was not only a woman in a male dominated industry, she was also African American, and played an instrument that most of the general public had little to no interest in at the time. It was this navigation and determination that makes Afro-Harping feel like such a victory behind music as it becomes a step back into the sun-ridden hills of 1968 with 10-total tracks that form quickly and dissipate just as soon. Even as the sound remains throughout, there is this emotional attachment that can reflect from the almost swing-sense that follows on Afro-Harping.
Ashby can collect this velvet smooth framing with the harp and the backing band that delivers whole-heartedly on manipulating the listener into becoming a monument of momentum. It was Afro-Harping that let the harp become the front instrument running the show as it grooves along to some blends of Richard Evans that allowed the instrument to really flow throughout the record. Opening tracks of “Soul Vibrations”, or the following of “Action Line”, Ashby strikes gold time and time again with a dedication to dropping some immensely beautiful rides of sound.
Even with “Life Has Its Trials” that feels focused on creating an uplifting sound on a daunting subject, it is deliberate through each release of the chords and surprisingly effective. Rather than creating downfalls within the record, Ashby stays on the up and up as she moves through the average length tracks of mostly three-minutes through these dance-esque movements. Afro-Harping breathes a ferocious light into the music and strangely enough creates an adaption to the harp that most at the time, would have been uneasy to.
The last moments of the record start to wind down and become more quiet before a giant barrage finale. Just as it starts, Afro-Harping ends with Ashby laying down an attractive muse of jazz music that builds and finally crumbles to the silence that follows behind.