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Leslie Gourse

trombonist and arranger, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of Lucille Liston, a domestic worker, and Frank Liston, an amateur musician who died when Melba was young. At age six Liston fell in love with a trombone in a pawnshop window. “I picked the trombone visually,” she told a reporter forty years later. “I just liked what it looked like in a store window. I became obsessed with the trombone and got one in the school system. I … learned by ear to play ‘Deep River,’ church, and folk pieces.” Melba lived with her grandparents, who also had a young daughter. Liston had approval for her music from her mother, who eventually bought her a trombone. “A child has to have some hobby,” Liston said. “My mother worked away … and I had my dear trombone” (interview with the author).

Liston s young aunt liked ...


Robert W. Logan

Music came to Liston when she was seven years old, enchanted by the gleaming brass face of a trombone. Her arms were barely long enough to reach some of the standard positions, but once she picked up that instrument, she remained with music for the rest of her life. One of the outstanding trombonists of her generation, Liston was the first woman to make a mark in jazz playing a brass instrument. She played with the bands of Gerald Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. The performers she accompanied include Billie Holiday, Cannonball Adderly, Betty Carter, Jimmy Smith, and Dinah Washington Her instrumental skills were matched by her talent for arranging music which led to collaborations with many of the leading jazz and pop musicians of her time Later in life she became an educator working in Jamaica New ...