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Ashby, Irving (29th December 1920-22nd April 1987)

Guitarist from Somerville, Massachusetts, who started playing in bands as a teen and was playing with Lionel Hampton by the time he was twenty. Some of his early recordings can be heard on the compilation, Highlights from the History of R&B (1925-1942).

After his stint with Hampton, he joined Jimmy Mundy’s orchestra. One of his recordings with them was a cover of “Solo Flight”.

In 1947, he supplanted Oscar Moore as a member of The Nat King Cole Trio. He stayed with them until 1951, when he moved to Perris, California. In 1952, he joined The Oscar Peterson Trio. It was a short-lived partnership.

Irving found success in the studios, where he became a valuable session player. A couple of his recordings from this time are Illinois Jacquet’s 1953-1955 and Roc Doc: Louis Jordan on Mercury 1956-1957. He even had his own sextet that recorded on the United Artists label.

In the 1960s, he drifted away from recording and focused more of his attention on teaching in local schools and at the University of California-Riverside. He also authored a music instruction book, simply titled Guitar. He passed away on 22nd April 1987 in Perris, California.

Opportunities abound to hear Irving’s guitar stylings in CD format, including Jazz ‘round Midnight, Jumpin’ at Capitol: The Best of the Nat King Cole Trio, and Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve.

Here he is on guitar with the Nat King Cole Trio for a performance of “Route 66”.