M is for trombonist/arranger/ composer Melba Liston. She got her first professional gig in 1943 working in a big band with Gerald Wilson. She went on to work with Dizzy Gilespe, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday and an amazing list of other bebop dignitaries. In the 1960s, she began collaborating with Randy Weston. Their working relationship continued through the 90s. It was with Weston that Melba created some of her most celebrated work as a jazz arranger. She also spent some time in Jamaica as professor of music at the University Of Jamaica. Here’s Melba performing “My Reverie” with Quincy Jones’ band.
And now it’s time for another episode of “Attention Deficit Theater” in color! I wondered whether Melba Liston was related to boxer Sonny Liston so I looked it up. They aren’t related. But my search to uncover that fact led me to a list of famous Listons. It turns out Listons, on the whole, are a pious bunch. Most of them are ministers. It made me curious about famous people with my last name. It turns out we are mainly musical but there is a mass murderer in the mix so that’s a point of pride for us. The killer in the mix made me curious about what last name bred the most murderers. (By the way, don’t to that search unless you really love reading incredibly bigoted and narrow minded commentary.) I couldn’t find info on the last name but the most common first names are Earl and Duane/Wayne. Lucky we have names like Wayne Shorter and Earl Hines to balance out the unpleasantness. Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, Melba Liston is awesome!