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Unsung Heroes of Jazz Harp

Dirk Sutro By

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Saxophones and trumpets are familiar stars of modern jazz, but a few brave souls have utilized unlikely instruments such as accordion (Renzo Ruggieri), bagpipes (Rufus Harley), and bandoneon (Astor Piazzola), as well as the ethereal harp of Dorothy Ashby. In the 1950s, Ashby proved that this classical instrument could also swing. She wasn't the first jazz harpist, but she was the first to record as a leader, and to show how the harp, a relative of guitar and piano, could be used to play chords and melodies, and to improvise. In this podcast, you'll hear how Ashby, Alice Coltrane, and now Carol Robbins have used their 46-stringers to swing jazz in fresh directions.

Learn more about Dorothy Ashby at Space Age Pop Music and at Wikipedia.

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