Melba Liston 1 of 2 May 21, 07

The inspiration behind SWEETS FOR MELBA, began with my heartfelt admiration for a true pioneer of the music world, Miss Melba Doretta Liston. For over four decades, in a field dominated by men, Melba Liston was more that just a solid player in the trombone section of the Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Gerald Wilson Orchestras. She was without a doubt THE most heralded of all female trombonists and one of the truly great arrangers of 20th Century creative music!!!

Melba had a very unique approach to arranging. The compositions that I wrote in tribute to Melba are straight from the heart, I did my very best to capture different elements of her very colorful life through a musical journey in suite form. Migrating from Kansas City to Los Angeles, Melba came with a certain fondness for the blues already within her, thus "Lady Bone Blues." Melba often said she was at her best when arranging ballads, bossa novas and sambas, thus my ballad, "Reflections of Melba." "Jamaican Sunrise" and "Island Nectar" are in remembrance of Melba's years in Jamaica. While composing and arranging this musical journey, there was one theme that kept resurfacing and it seemed to be inspired by and revolve around that famous Melba Liston smile, thus, "Within A Smile" (movements one and two).

Whenever I'm in the process of dedicating original music to someone I hold in such high esteem, the creative process becomes an exploration of not only that person and their individuality; but I actually discover untapped internal feelings which beckon forth my emotions to flow freely.

I am very grateful to the Department of Cultural Affairs for my 2007 City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Individual Artist Fellowship which afforded me some time this year to focus on the compositions premiering here tonight. I would also like to thank The Durfee Foundation for my Artists’ Resource Completion (ARC) grant which helped to enhance this performance with collaborating artists. My thanks to Mark Greenfield for his artistic sensitivity in the production of the beautiful 2007 COLA catalog; and much appreciation to Dalili Pierson for all her hard work, for her devotion to this great music and for writing such a complimentary essay on my life's work.

Tonight, as I celebrate my birthday, I am blessed to be surrounded by some of the finest musicians in the world, who have put their hearts and souls into interpreting my labor of love. I offer special thanks to Nedra Wheeler, Ralph “Buzzy” Jones, Don Littleton, Tigran Hamasyan, Taumbu and our special guest, Detroit’s own, Wendell Harrison. So with humble gratification I present: SWEETS FOR MELBA. (By Phil Ranelin for May 25, 2007 Concert of new compositions written in tribute Melba Liston.) Visit: and

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