Al Ashley
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Al Ashley

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"Al Ashley, "These Are Them""

Review Courtesy AllAboutiazzcom
These Are Them
Al Ashley I Jazzand
By John Kelman
For listeners who picked up on the somewhat elusive guitarist Rick Stone’s recent release, Samba de Novembro (Jazzand, ‘04), and liked what they heard, here’s an opportunity to catch Stone in a completely different context. Drummer Al Ashley’s These Are Them, originally released in ‘03 but only now seeing broader release, finds Stone and fellow bandmates organist Oliver Von Essen and saxophonist David Liebman working their way through a set of seven originals that’s completely committed, and as hard- hitting a straightahead session as you’re likely to hear this year.
With the obvious exception of Liebman, none of the players in this ensemble have much of a recorded legacy. Operating under the radar, but with three decades of work that has seen him perform with artists including Milt Jackson, Miroslav Vitous and Randy and Michael Brecker, Ashley is an in-the-pocket drummer who seems more content to work in support rather than aggressively assert his personality. But that shouldn’t imply that Ashley is anything less than a richly intuitive player with a firm and supple sense of swing that pervades the entire set, from the straightahead “Blue Note,” which pays obvious homage to the famed label’s classic ‘6os recordings, to the more idiosyncratic samba of the title track. Both are Ashley compositions, as is “Fats Write,” which, with its complex head and changes that recall the modality of some of John Scofield’s early writing on Rough House (Enja, ‘78), demonstrates Ashley’s debt to Elvin Jones.
Stone, whose Samba de Novembro revealed a style combining the economy of Jim Hall with the soul of Wes Montgomery, a touch of Pat Metheny’s lyricism and a deeper, darker-hued tone that brought to mind a sparer Pat Martino, plays with more intensity on Ashley’s session. His solos on “Fats Write” and his own “Relative Minority,” a hard-edged bop tune where his ability to play through changes is nothing short of remarkable, are particularly inventive and focused.

Von Essen is another player who manages to build solos with a clear sense of construction. On his own “Perfect Day,” which ambles along at a relaxed pace with just a touch of soul in the mix, and “The Other Time,” a more modern waltz that demonstrates some of the creativity of Larry Young but with more finesse, Von Essen shows himself to be a sensitive accompanist and evocative soloist.
Liebman, as always, brings a strong expressionist sensibility to whatever context he finds himself in. He’s capable of rich lyricism, as his soprano work on “The Other Time” attests, or more fiery tenor excursions, as on “Blue Note” and his own “Look What We Do To Ourselves,” which closes the album on a powerful and ardent note. It’s good to see Liebman, best known for his soprano work, bringing out the tenor more often these days.
These Are Them is a long overdue d?but from Ashley, proof positive that there is a host of world-class players out there operating underneath the radar who deserve broader exposure.
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- AllAboutJazz

"Al Ashley, "These Are Them""

CD Review of Al Ashley - These Are Them on Jazzand Records Page 1 of 2
CD Title: These Are Them
Year: 2003
Record Label: Jazzand Records
Style: BeBop / Hard Bop
Musicians: David Liebman (tenor and soprano sax), Rick Stone (guitar), Oliver Von Esson (organ), Al Ashley (drums)
Review: These Are Them is drummer Al Ashley’s recording debut as a leader, and a fine debut it is. Joining him in this bass-less quartet are David Liebman on tenor and soprano saxophones, Rick Stone on guitar and Oliver Von Esson on organ. Ashley simply could not have put together a nicer sounding band. The press release states that Stone and Von Esson are relative newcomers, as compared to the more seasoned Ashley and Liebman. I suppose that’s true, considering the fact that the esteemed drummer and sax player both have over 30 years of pro experience behind them. But the guitarist and organist are not newbies by any stretch of the imagination. Stone, while not yet widely known, has been a fixture on the New York scene since the ‘80s and has released several albums as a leader. Von Esson, a native of Germany, has been living and playing in New York since 1989 and spent more than two years as the after hours house pianist at the Blue Note jazz club. So while there is some difference in the degree of experience between these four musicians, you wouldn’t know it by listening to this disc. They all display the same degree of formidable musicianship — not only in their playing, but also in their ability to listen to each other, which is at least as important in a band, if not more so.
This is essentially a hard bop outing, consisting of all original tunes penned by members of the band — three from Ashley, two from Von Esson and one each from Stone and Liebman. The album opens with Ashley’s composition “Blue Note,” a beautiful mid-tempo number. After listening to a few moments of this track it’s immediately clear why Ashley has been the drummer of choice over the years for jazz greats such as Teddy Wilson, Milt Jackson, Al Cohn, Michael Brecker and Miraslov Vitous. Not only does he play deep in the pocket with a great sense of swing, he’s also extremely tasteful — he never overplays and knows exactly how to incorporate accents in just the right places to keep the music interesting. Liebman plays the head on this one and digs right into the first solo. One of best saxophonists playing today (and also a renowned music educator), he plays with a strong, vibrant tone. His approach displays a sureness and, for lack of a better word, confidence, that you don’t find in many saxophonists of this era.
The title track, “These Are Them” (another Ashley original), is a samba that Stone takes the first solo on. He has a beautiful guitar sound and style that reminds me a bit of early Kenny Burrell. He plays a spirited solo and then comps wonderfully under Von Esson’s equally impressive improvisations. Liebman, on soprano, takes the last solo, during which he reaches up into the altissimo register of the horn, something that few can do well on soprano, especially while staying perfectly in tune.
They slow things down a bit on the bluesy third track, Von Esson’s “Perfect Day,” which captures the spirit of a laid-back afternoon of ease and leisure. The next track, another Von Esson original, is a waltz entitled “The Other Time”. It has an intriguing melody and the head consists of two parts — one part played by Von Esson on organ and the other by Liebman on soprano sax. Von Esson’s solo on this track is especially nice.
The one composition contributed by Stone is “Relative Minority,” which takes its title from the song’s harmonic movement (through relative minors). It’s a great arrangement of a great tune. Liebman really cuts up on tenor here, making full use of the entire range of the horn. “Fats Write” is a tune that Ashley wrote and dedicated to his friend and mentor, the late Fats Wright, a legendary pianist/organist that played with greats like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. It manages to sound both classic and modern at the same time.
The final track on this disc was written by Liebman. It is called “Look At What We Do To Ourselves,” a previously unrecorded piece written by the saxophonist in response to the human error responsible for the terrible nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. Fittingly, it evokes feelings of menace and danger, but laced with a slight undertone of hope and optimism.
This is a wonderful debut album for Ashley — great songs, great musicianship and a band that really seems to enjoy playing together. It was well worth waiting 30 years for. I just hope we don’t have to wait that long for the next one!
Tracks: Blue Note, These Are Them, Perfect Day, The Other Time, Relative Minority, Fats Write, Look At What We Do To Ourselves
Reviewed by:
Copyright© 2005®. Mi Rights Reserved.
http ://www.j azzreview.comlcdreviewprint.cfm?ID=92 16 5/17/2005

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"Al Ashley,"These Are Them""

Review Courtesy AllAboutiazzcom
These Are Them
Al Ashley I Jazzand
By Dennis Hollingsworth
In the liner notes to drummer Al Ashley’s These Are Them, the title is given this meaning: “these are good times, enjoy them while you are able, for they will never return again.” Not a bad way to approach life in general, and certainly appropriate for the immediacy necessary in the recording studio. The inclusion of saxophonist Dave Liebman on the date is due mention; long well- known among players and educators, he’s too often overshadowed by his more famous brethren. In addition, this is Liebman’s first recording with an organ trio, adding freshness to the proceedings as a bonus.
Ashley’s relaxed style relies more upon taste and steadiness than dazzling displays of technique. This sets the tone for similar playing within the group. Guitarist Rick Stone’s explorations are deft and cleanly displayed. Liebman, brilliant as always, does not venture much beyond a controlled boil, which is perfect in this setting. Organist Oliver Von Essen prefers a gritty edge to his sound, a bit of controlled distortion evident throughout. He might just be a guitar player in organ’s clothes!
Ashley contributes three original compositions, with one each from his cohorts. Four of the tunes are medium tempo 4/4 swing, the others being a waltz, a ballad, and a very cool blues, “Perfect Day.” In fact, Liebman lays down such a superb solo, filled with history and old time sensibility, that you cannot hold back a big smile. The ensemble is similarly inspired, a real treat to be sure.
The entire date was recorded in one day, avoiding numerous takes and overdubs. Although there is a somewhat obvious studio quality, the playing compensates by showing plentiful signs of joy and communication. If the recording has a standout flaw, it is in the slightly constrained overall sound. However, that is certainly a subjective observation and does not detract from the performances. This is an enjoyable set played by competent musicians with enough innovation to keep one guessing.

Track Listing: Blue Note; These are Them; Perfect
Day; The Other Time; Riative Minority; Fats Write;
Look at What We Do to Ourselves (52:52)
Personnel: Al Ashley, Drums; Rick Stone, Guitar; Oliver Von Essen, Organ; Dave Liebman, Saxophones
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- AllAboutJazz

"Al Ashley, "These Are Them""

Welcome to Bruce Crowthers Website Al Ashley These Are Them (Jazzand 1001)
A scorching set of hard bop with a hint of the powerhouse organ trios of yesteryear. Not that there is anything the least bit dated about this contemoporary jazz quartet. For this date, drummer Al Ashley brings on board organist Oliver Von Esson, guitarist Rick Stone, and special guest saxophonist Dave Liebman. Together, they make tough-edged gutsy statements that vigorously confirm their masterful ability. The seven tracks are all originals by one or another of the quartet and ably display their writing skills. Although a veteran of the modern jazz scene, this is Al’s first date is leader. We must hope that it is not his last. (& ic
- swing2bop

"Al Ashley, "These Are Them""

Featured Artist: Al Ashley
CD Title: These Are Them
Year: 2004
Record Label: Jazzland
Style: BeBop / Hard Bop
Review: It’s hard to stay in your seat when you hear the 1st cut of this animated and very cogent jazz quartet. Plus, using one of my favorite reedmen, David Liebman was a personal plus to hear & enjoy for this reviewer. The use as well of Oliver Von Essen on organ completes the circle, as leader Al Ashley & Rick Stone (drums & jazz guitar respectively), offer their talents, thus rounding off this highly gifted aggregation. Note the intricate counterpoint, the continuous harmonic movement, plus their lush panoply of modern chords, leaving ample ‘space’ for each player to express their own ideas, spontaneity, & small group intimacy. I love em!!’
Reviewed by: George W. Carroll / The Musicians’ Ombudsman
copyright© 2004®. All Rights Reserved.
- The Musicians' Ombudsman

"Al Ashley, "These Are Them""

Al Ashley, “These Are Them” 3 stars
Drummer Al Ashley makes a belated debut as a leader Tuesday with the release of “These Are
Them” (Jazzand). He has performed with Mose Allison, Al Cohn, Milt Jackson, Carol Sloane and
Teddy Wilson, among others, and on this album, he heads an organ combo that includes Dave
Liebman, the renowned tenor and soprano saxophonist and teacher. This is Liebman’s first
appearance with an organ group.
There’s worthy interest in hearing organist Oliver Von Esson (a Larry Young follower) and guitarist Rick Stone (who often recalls Wes Montgomery), but the focus is on the eclectic Liebman. Will he exploit the down-home, grits-and-gravy formula of organ combo tenormen of the past? Of course not. His playing explodes with busy, fragmented, asymmetric lines, advanced harmonies and bucking bronco rhythms -- not exactly the stereotype. The closest he comes to tradition is on Esson’s bluesy, loping “Perfect Day.”
Alone, the organ trio has a churning quality -- a steady ensemble undercurrent superimposed with darting lines, chordal swells and bubbly bursts from the organ and thoughtful, counterrhythmic phrases from the guitar. Ashley, a bold drummer in the manner of Art Blakey, rolls and kicks underneath.
Ashley’s composition “Blue Note” salutes his formative years, the early ‘60s, when the Blue Note record label was a paradise for fans and players of hard bop. The title track, another Ashley tune, is a samba Mideasternized by Liebman’s soprano. Stone’s “Relative Minority,” a tune with good harmonic momentum, brings back the hard bop style and energy. Ashley’s gunning, uptempo “Fats Write” employs sizzling drum breaks in the theme.
For additional Stone, check out his “Samba de Novembro,” a quartet date also on Jazzand. Likewise, Liebman can be heard with his own quartet on “In a Mellow Tone” on Zoho.
© Copyright 2005, The News & Observer Publishin Company,
a subsidiary of The McClatchy Company
By OWEN CORDLE, Correspondent
- The News & Observer

"Al Ashley, "These Are Them""

Al Ashley - THESE ARE THEM: Some downright wicked organ by Oliver Von Essen floatin’ behind that fine sax from David Liebman, & of course, th’ leader’s drums (Mr. Ashley himself) are a driving force in/of themselves on his debut album. Put that together with some high energy stratospheric guitar by Rick Stone, & you’ve got one sweet CD. This is especially true for folks who’ve been enchanted by solid jazz licks for their whole lives... jazz folks will dig big on this session. The CD doesn’t hit the streets until 1 February, 2005
- so get your order in now! These are all original tracks, from all the artists, & (as per usua), it’s evident in the playing that any time it’s the artists’ own track, energy will be higher! This is the first time we’ve heard David playing in a while, & his style here seems a bit different than when we’ve reviewed him previously. Al makes a strong case for percussion being the “force” in jazz (or any other music, I reckon)... the album is recorded superbly, and there are no players “stepping” on others... but you can tell from the first bar, all the way to the last track, that Ashley is driving this train! Another thing that comes across very clearly is that these folks are totally comfortable playing with each other... this is àne of the most spontaneous jazz albums you’ll listen to this year! I think the organ adds a lot to that spontaneous feel, but it can’t be “zoned” in on any one player - they’re all very nicely woven together, & th’ listener feels like they’re right there in the living/stereo room, playing just for them. This CD gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, & totally deserves it! Contact via the site, at or via e-mail to Rotcod Zzaj
- Improvijazzation Nation

"Al Ashley, "These Are Them""

Al Ashley - These Are Them 4/4
0’s Notes: Drummer Al Ashley leads a stellar quartet with Dave Liebman (sax), Oliver Von Essen (organ) and Rick Stone (guitar). The music is a cool fusion that allows each of the musicians to display their talents and blend as a team as well. The title refers to living life to its fullest today, the good times and the music reflects this. All seven tunes maintain this feeling, a cooking set.
D. Oscar Groomes
Os Place Jazz Newsletter
P.O. Box 2437
NapervUle, IL 6O567 2437

- O's Place


"These Are Them",Al Ashley[Jazzand]
"Halcyon Days",U. of Miami [Criteria Studios]
"Montreux Jazz Festival: U. of Miami C.J.B. featuring
Michael Brecker and Randy Brecker[cd&DVD-bootleg]-check the net



"....[Ashley]the excellent drummer, who, throughout...anticipates the beat and sometimes stays on the beat with exceptional precision." Robert R. Calder[Pop Matters]
Alvin [Al] Lee Ashley is an experienced and talented musician whose career has spanned more than three decades. Al earned his B.M. and M.M. degrees in Studio Music and Jazz at the Univ. of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida with directors Jerry Coker and Whit Sidener, respectively.
In addition to a U.S. State Dept. tour of the Mid-East, Mr. Ashley has performed and taught on an international level including jazz festivals in Montreux, Switzerland;Umbria, Italy; Vestkyst,Denmark; Montreal, Canada, and others. He has performed in concert and/or clinic with Ira Sullivan, Miraslov Vitous, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Milt Jackson, David Liebman, Teddy Wilson, Eddie Higgins, Terry Gibbs, Al Cohn, Al Grey, Jimmy Forrest, Louis Bellson, Chris Connor, Mose Allison, Carol Sloane and many others.
Al’s latest recording,” These Are Them “, features David Liebman,saxes; Rick Stone, guitar; and Oliver Von Essen,organ. This cd showcases all original compositions by everyone in the group and marks the first time Mr. Liebman has ever recorded in a organ trio format.
The cd is available at Tower Records[web], Jazzand Music Productions, and CD Baby[www.cdbaby/alashley].