Melba Liston, Jazz Trailblazer

Melba Liston (1926-1999) a gifted trombonist, arranger, and composer, broke the gender barrier for jazz instrumentalists. She was the first woman instrumentalist to share the stage with men in big bands. In the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, she played trombone in the big bands of Gerald Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, and Clark Terry and toured, arrange, and recorded with a wide array of Jazz and popular artists.

Although an excellent soloist, Liston preferred to avoid the limelight and work behind the scenes. The clip below, “You Don’t Say,” is from her only recording as a leader, “Melba Liston and her Bones.” She was a longtime collaborator of pianist Randy Weston, and much of her best work consisted of arranging and composing in association with him.

Much more information about this Jazz trailblazer can be found on her Wikipedia page.  She was also featured in a segment of NPR’s Jazz Profiles.