Oral Histories

Interview of Melba Liston

Jazz arranger, composer, and trombone player.
Central Avenue Sounds: Melba Liston
Central Avenue Sounds Oral History Project
African American History
Biographical Note:
Jazz arranger, composer, and trombone player.
Isoardi, Steven L.
Liston, Melba
Persons Present:
Liston and Isoardi.
Place Conducted:
Liston's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Steven L. Isoardi, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., Government, University of San Francisco; M.A., Government, University of San Francisco; M.A., Political Science, UCLA; Ph.D., Political Science, UCLA.Isoardi prepared for the interview by consulting jazz histories, autobiographies, oral histories, relevant jazz periodicals, documentary films, and back issues of the California Eagle and the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Processing of Interview:
Alex Cline, editor, edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Whenever possible, the proper names of the nightclubs were checked against articles and advertisements in back issues of the California Eagle . Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.Liston reviewed the transcript. She verified proper names but made no corrections or additions.Susan E. Douglass, editor, prepared the table of contents and interview history. Cline assembled the biographical summary. Peter Limbrick, editorial assistant, compiled the index.
1.6 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
Interviews in this series preserve the spoken memories of individuals, mainly musicians, who were raised near and/or performed on Los Angeles's Central Avenue from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s.
Early musical training on the trombone and piano--Family moves from Kansas to Los Angeles--Music teachers--Early musical tastes--Studying with Alma Hightower--Joins the American Federation of Musicians--Plays in band led by Hightower--Female members of Hightower's band--More on joining the American Federation of Musicians--Attends Polytechnic High School.
Plays with Bardu Ali's band at the Lincoln Theatre--Learns how to arrange music--More on playing at the Lincoln Theatre--The Sweethearts of Rhythm--Joins Gerald Wilson's band--Wilson's band travels to New York and Chicago--Male band members' treatment of women--Plays with Billie Holiday's band in the South.
More on playing for Billie Holiday--Works for the Los Angeles City Board of Education in the fifties--Playing with a small band and jamming on Central Avenue--Musicians who played on Central Avenue--Changes in Central Avenue in the late forties--The amalgamation of American Federation of Musicians Local 47 and Local 767--Arranging music--Women musicians on Central Avenue--Joins Dizzy Gillespie's band--Looking back at Central Avenue.