A fine section trombonist, Melba Liston achieved her greatest fame as an arranger, particularly for her projects with Randy Weston.
She grew up in California and played with Gerald Wilson's Orchestra starting in 1943. Her most notable recording as a soloist was with Dexter Gordon in 1947. Liston worked with Count Basie (1948-1949), Dizzy Gillespie's big band (1949-1950), and backed Billie Holiday, but then spent a few years outside of music.
She toured with and wrote for Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra (1956-1957) and visited Europe with Quincy Jones' big band (1959), staying with that orchestra into 1961. Liston then became a freelance arranger, working on sessions led by Weston, Johnny Griffin, and Milt Jackson, writing for the studios, teaching, and occasionally playing. A serious stroke confined her to a wheelchair from 1985 onward, but Liston still wrote for several latter-day Randy...