Wednesday, March 31, 2010

for melba liston (13)

for melba liston
1926 -1999

sliding from bebop to motown was
for u like moving from kansas city
to l.a. -- no change in direction. u
were arranger/saavy & yr sound did
not break, yr movements clearly
mapped & every pitch had the same
harmonic number. yr portamento
life, was full of restless intervals, had
its salient recurring figures, but u,
melba, resolved yr augmented 4ths
into sweet minor sixths picking the
‘bone as yr axe not because it was
what finishing school girls did, but
because the thing was so damn
beautiful; falling in & out with music
teachers who meant well because u
knew yr own musical mind, had a
great ear & could write like a crowning
muse. the great bandleaders found u -–
gerald wilson in ’43, johnnie griffin
in ‘45, diz in ’48 & ’56, billie holliday
in ’48-’49, Q in ’57, clark terry, &
mingus thru the sixties & randy weston
in the sixties, seventies,eighties &
nineties. although u slow played yr valve
trombone, a sensitive virtuoso blues &
ballad stylist, blending motivic & linear
improvisations to make yr solos lyrical
& gay or mysterious & warm, u are
remembered best for possessing like a
loa the musical ideas of others, filling
them with the aşẹ of hidden & secret
things,writing vital pieces for combo &
big band alike, moving from ballads &
standards to funky grooves; melodic &
polyrhythmic motifs with extended tonal
vocabularies, so rich in altered harmonic
voicings, layered to the bone with due
dissonance, & the deep variations & subtle
shadings of africa.

©Joseph McNair;2010


  1. Melba Liston was an amazing force of Nature. A great Musician, Composer, Arranger & a powerful example of artistic integrity. I know her Spirit is dancing on the rhythms of this beautiful Poem. Thanks Joe!!!