Harold Ashby brought his tenor saxophone and sat in with us several times. To us, these were very zesty samplings. After he had recorded with us once or twice, we could hear that Jimmy Hamilton had been strongly influenced by him. We could, in fact, hear it after his very first visit. It created a fine spirit in us all, because Ash had started out trying to play like Ben Webster, whom we all loved. But by this time he had allowed a lot of his own self to break through, to join with Ben's style, and to mature into an indescribable prime product of soul-saturated solo popping de luxe!
"How do we get this guy?" I asked. The opportunity came in 1963 when I did the show My People. I had to have another band for it, so I collected all the musicians I would have liked to have had myself but could not afford in addition to all those I already had. That My People band was marvelous, and Ash was in it, but after the show closed my urge refused to be subdued. So I hung on until we finally got him in the band on a regular basis five years later. He has been a great contributor in solos, as well as to the quality of ensemble sound on both tenor and clarinet. In the U.S.S.R., he was definitely the soloist, and at almost all the concerts he had to answer audience demands for an encore.
Originally, he came out of the Kansas City jazz-blues community which has produced so many outstanding swingers, and he has never lost their kind of impetus and feeling.