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Melba Liston: Melba Liston and Her 'Bones

Hrayr Attarian By

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Finding an obscure recording, especially one of quality, can be exciting for jazz enthusiasts. This reissue of Melba Liston's only recording as a leader, originally released by the short-lived Metro Jazz label half a century ago, is cause for celebration. The reissued Melba Liston and Her 'Bones also includes four tracks from another session which was originally released under Frank Rehak's name.

Melba Liston is best known as an arranger and composer, thanks to her associations with Dizzy Gillespie and subsequently Randy Weston. But she was a virtuoso trombone player as well. On this recording she joins a variety of other trombonists, including Bennie Green, Al Grey, and Benny Powell (three tracks); Jimmy Cleveland, Frank Rehak and Slide Hampton (five tracks); and Frank Rehak (the four bonus tracks). The leader's interplay with the other trombone players adds to the musical richness of the recording.

Even in the company of high-quality, accomplished master musicians like these, her musical skills stand out. Her lyrical improvisations are melodic, clear and gay when she plays unmuted, and mysterious and warm when muted. This recording is one of the few places to hear Melba Liston solo, in addition to two tracks on Ernie Henry's Last Chorus (Riverside, 1958) and a beautiful solo on "My Reverie with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.

This hard-swinging music is firmly planted in the bop tradition, enhanced by the playing of Marti Flax (baritone sax) and Kenny Burrell (guitar) on specific tracks. Melba Liston's playing matches her compositional skills; she wrote four of the twelve pieces, and they shine with originality. Liston has long been ignored as a composer and horn player, in large part due to gender bias, and so this reissue is long overdue—not just because of its historical value, but also the quality of the music.

Track Listing: Christmas Eve; What's My Line Theme; You Don't Say; Dark Before Dawn; Pow; Blues Melba; Trolley Song; Wonder Why; Insomnia; Very Syrian Business; Never Do An Abadanian; Zagred This.

Personnel: Melba Liston, Bennie Green, Al Grey, Benny Powell: trombone; Kenny Burrell: guitar; George Joyner: bass; Charlie Persip: drums (3,6,7). Melba Liston, Jimmy Cleveland, Frank Rehak: trombone; Slide Hampton: trombone, tuba; Ray Bryant: piano; Frank Dunlop: drums (1,2,4,5,8). Melba Liston, Frank Rehak: trombone; Marty Flax: baritone saxophone; Walter Davis Jr.: piano; Nelson Boyd: bass; Charlie Persip: drums (9-12).

Title: Melba Liston and Her 'Bones | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Fresh Sound Records

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