Although not a major name in the jazz world, Alvin Lee Ashley (who goes by Al Ashley for short) is a reliable, swinging drummer who has been playing hard bop and post-bop since the '70s -- first in his native Virginia and more recently in New York City. Ashley (not to be confused with the Alvin Lee who played with the famous blues-rock band Ten Years After) hasn't been documented on CD extensively; in fact, he was close to 56 when he finally got around to recording an album as a leader. But over the years, Ashley has crossed paths with well-known improvisers ranging from vibists Terry Gibbs and Milt Jackson to tenor saxophonists Al Cohn and Jimmy Forrest to multi-hornman Ira Sullivan. Most of the people who Ashley has played with are instrumentalists, but he has backed some well-known vocalists as well, including Chris Connor, Mose Allison, and Carol Sloane. Ashley's influences have included, among others, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Art Taylor (as in Taylor's Wailers), Billy Higgins, and Art Blakey.
Ashley was born in Welch, VA, on March 25, 1946, but has lived in New York City since 1985. After going so long without recording an album, Ashley finally got into a Brooklyn studio on March 23, 2002 -- only two days before his 56th birthday -- and recorded his first album as a leader, These Are Them, which boasts the flexible Dave Liebman on both tenor and soprano sax. Three of the songs on These Are Them are Ashley originals: "Blue Note," "Fats Write" (which was written in memory of the late pianist/organist Fats Wright -- another person Ashley played with), and the title track. The Brooklyn-based Jazzand Productions (as opposed to Jazzland Productions) gave These Are Them a February 2005 release date. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi