Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
Illustrated by Frank Morrison, Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown

Publisher’s Summary:
A biography of African American jazz virtuoso Melba Doretta Liston, a pioneering twentieth-century trombone player, composer, and music arranger at a time when few women, of any race, played brass instruments and were part of the jazz scene.

Primary Source Pairing:
Melba’s life was full of music even before she learned to play the trombone when she was only seven years old! Her career in music would last the rest of her life as a musician, band leader, and music arranger. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study an image of Melba in 1958 and the album cover for “Melba Liston and Her Bones” released in 1959. Additionally, listen to songs on this album on this YouTube playlist using the Primary Source Analysis Tool for Sound Recordings as a guide to a listening analysis.

Questions for Discussion:

Image of Melba Liston:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?

Image of Record Album:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • How much of the text can you read? What does it say?
  • What do you see that looks strange or unfamiliar?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Image of Melba Liston:
Image of Album Cover: Scripts & Grooves

Additional Resource:
“Melba Liston: Bones Of An Arranger”: