Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
An excellent Ben Webster-inspired tenor saxophonist, Harold Ashby fit right in during his period with Duke Ellington. He had played in Kansas City (starting in 1946) and, in the early '50s, in Chicago. While most of his previous work was in R&B and blues bands, he was always a fine swing-based improviser. In 1957, Ashby moved to New York, met Ben Webster, and through the elder tenor was introduced to Duke Ellington. During the next decade he was on the periphery of Duke's world, playing with Mercer Ellington's short-lived band, recording with Ellington stars, and appearing in Duke's My People show. Ashby was more than ready when he joined Ellington in 1968, and he was a major asset to the band up until the leader's death. Ashby continued with Mercer Ellington into 1975, gigged with Benny Goodman and Sy Oliver, and performed often in Europe and led occasional record dates, including 1991's What Am I Here For? and 1999's Just For You, thus keeping the Ellington swing tenor legacy alive. After suffering a heart attack in May of 2003, Harold Ashby was hospitalized in his adopted home of New York. He passed away June 13, 2003 at the age of 78.