Little Melba and her big trombone

Katheryn Russell-Brown, 1961-

Book - 2014

"A biography of African American musician Melba Doretta Liston, a virtuoso musician who played the trombone and composed and arranged music for many of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Includes afterword, discography, and sources"--

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Picture books
New York : Lee & Low Books 2014.
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 x 28 cm
Elementary Grade.
Includes bibliographical references and discography.
Main Author
Katheryn Russell-Brown, 1961- (author)
Other Authors
Frank Morrison, 1971- (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Review

Melba Doretta Liston grew up surrounded by music in Depression era Kansas City and L.A., and all through her family's home, notes stirred and rhythms bubbled. Even though her first trombone was almost bigger than she was, she couldn't keep her hands off of it. The cool brass of the horn felt swell on her fingers, and soon this trombone phenom was playing on the radio, writing tunes, and touring the world. As an African American woman, she experienced tough times along the way, but neither the fans nor the music would give up on Melba, and her career and accolades continued into the 1990s. In a smoothly paced narrative, this picture-book biography surveys the full life arc of a relatively unknown and unique jazz master. Brimming with inherent and inescapable enthusiasm, the oil-paint illustrations are the cat's pajamas, with brassy colors and jazzy perspectives that slide across the long pages, like Melba's own instrument. A strong afterword, discography, and source notes round out this enlightening, enjoyable introduction.--Medlar, Andrew Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A musician plucked from jazz history is the subject of Russell-Brown's debut picture book. In the music-filled Kansas City of the 1920s, young Melba Doretta Liston wants to play an instrument, eventually swooning over a shiny trombone and learning to play. Staccato rhythms pepper the fluid prose: "Blues, jazz, and gospel rhythms danced in her head-the plink of a guitar, the hummmm of a bass, the thrum-thrum of a drum." Eventually, Liston's talent attracts the attention of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and others, but her struggles are laid out plainly: "Some white folks didn't show good manners toward folks with brown skin. Hotel rooms were hard to come by, and the band members often had to sleep on the bus." Morrison's oil paintings practically sway with a jazz beat, though somber moments crop up, too: the shadows on Liston's face signify the trials of life on the road. A final image showing long-limbed Liston in profile as she plays under the glow of stage lights is exquisite. Ages 6-10. Author's agent: Adriana Dominguez, Full Circle Literary. Illustrator's agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-Music lovers will enjoy this picture-book biography of Melba Liston (1926-99), child prodigy and virtuoso trombonist who collaborated with most 20th century jazz greats. An excellent match of breezy text and dynamic illustrations tells an exhilarating story. Always in tune with music, seven-year-old Melba chose her first instrument from Joe's Music Truck. Self-taught and determined, she survived the gender-based taunts of high school boys while playing in Alma Hightower's after-school music club (using her horn to "turn all those hurt feelings into soulful music") and racial discrimination while touring with Billie Holiday's band. In the end, Liston "[made] her trombone sing" for audiences around the world and was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. Russell-Brown's text engages the senses ("[Melba] especially loved Fats Waller, with his growly voice and booming piano"), while Morrison's distinctive illustrations, stretched out like a slide trombone, draw the eye across each spread to the page turn. Back matter includes a detailed afterword with two photographs and a bibliography of books, articles, interviews, radio broadcasts, and websites, including a Jazz Cafe, where students can view Liston performing with Dizzy Gillespie's band. Pair this book with Jonah Winter's Dizzy (Scholastic, 2006) and Marilyn Nelson's Sweethearts of Rhythm (Dial, 2009) to explore more fully the jazz culture of the time. A celebration of the talent and success of a little-known African American female musician, this title will enrich library collections.-Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Horn Book Review

From the time she was a little girl, Melba Liston loved music, especially the jazz music that surrounded her while she was growing up, first in Kansas City and then in Los Angeles. Given the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument at age seven, she chose the trombone. It was not a traditional choice for a girl, especially a small girl whose arms weren't even long enough yet to push out the slide. But Melba wasn't a traditional girl. She persisted, and with the support of her family and her teachers, she excelled. By age seventeen, she was ready to tour as a member of jazz trumpeter Gerald Wilson's new band. She played with the greats, including Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, and was almost always the only woman in the band (except on her tour with Billie Holiday). As a woman, she faced as many barriers and challenges as she did as an African American musician traveling through the mid-twentieth-century South. But Melba was highly sought out, as a band member, session musician, composer, and arranger. Russell-Brown's account of her subject's early life is as smooth and stimulating as a Liston trombone solo, and will leave readers wanting to know more about the woman and her music. Morrison's oil paintings, in his trademark elongated, angular style, perfectly convey the jazz scene and, of course, Melba's amazing horn. kathleen t. horning (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that its not all easy for Melba; The Best Service for WHITES ONLY reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba dazzling audiences and making headlines around the world. Russell-Browns debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrisons sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melbas story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gownclad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.Readers will agree that Melba Doretta Liston was something special.(Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.