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Melba Liston

Melba Liston

Trombone, Arranger
January 13, 1926 -- April 23, 1999

Melba Liston



"Melba Liston is one of the best jazz musicians, not just one of the best women in jazz."

--Junior Mance


Melba Liston was born in Kansas City and moved with her family to Los Angeles at the age of 11 where she played with youth bands before starting her career in a pit orchestra (1942). She joined Gerald Wilson's band in 1943 and began writing arrangements; during her time with Wilson she recorded with Dexter Gordon (1947), then when Wilson's orchestra disbanded on the East Coast (1948) she accepted a job with Dizzy Gillespie. She toured with Billie Holliday (1949) but was so profoundly affected by the indifference of the audiences and the rigors of the road that she gave up playing and took a clerical job.

In the mid-1950s she enjoyed a brief career as a film extra, appearing in The Prodigal and The Ten Commandments. She re-joined Gillespie for tours sponsored by the US State Department in 1956 and 1957, recorded with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1957), and visited Europe (1959) with the show Free and Easy, for which Quincy Jones was music director.

In the 1960s she worked for a variety of leaders including Randy Weston, then taught at the Jamaica School of Music for six years (1973-79), before returning to the USA to lead her own bands. She was a talented and sensitive arranger, and one of the most accomplished trombonists of her generation.

--STAN WOOLLEY, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.


A selected discography of Melba Liston albums.


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