Harold Ashby Day

March 21, 1925 – June 13, 2003

Duke Ellington Orchestra featuring Harold Ashby

Tenor saxophonist Harold Ashby was born on March 21, 1925, in Kansas City, Missouri.

As a teenager, Ashby played in blues and R&B bands. In 1957 he moved to New York City, where he was introduced to Duke Ellington.

He played as a sideman for many, including Ben Webster and Duke’s son Mercer, before joining the Ellington Orchestra in 1968.

He also enjoyed success in Europe, maintaining an active tour circuit there throughout his life.

Ashby released several albums as a leader, including 1991’s What Am I Here For?

For the next ten years, he would perform with various Ellington sidemen and became a member of the short-lived band Mercer Ellington.

In 1968 Harold Ashby replaced Jimmy Hamilton in Duke Ellington’s band becoming the ensemble’s last star.

Following Duke Ellington’s death in 1974 he remained with the orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington of another year.

He left the band in 1975 and performed with various groups playing jazz tenor saxophone.

With his departure from Ellington Ashby performed with Benny Goodman and Sy Oliver and frequently toured Europe engaging in occasional record dates.

The “Duke Ellington Orchestra” perform live at Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg, Canada, on May 25, 1973.


Cootie Williams, trumpet
Mercer Ellington,
Johnny Coles,
Money Johnson,
Eddie Peterson,

Murray Carney, trombone
Vince Prudente,
Chuck Connors,

Harold Ashby, tenor sax
Doug Harris, clarinet & soprano sax
Paul Gonsalves, tenor sax
Harry Carney, alto & baritone sax

Duke Ellington, piano & leader
Joe Benjamin, bass
Rufus Jones, drums


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