July 19, 2012
You'd think that any jazz musician who wrote for Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Billy Eckstine and Randy Weston -- and also played trombone for Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones and Gerald Wilson -- would be known to all the world.
But outside of connoisseurs, few are familiar with the pioneering work of Melba Liston, who arranged two of pianist's Weston's most ambitious compositions, "Uhuru Afrika" and "Highlife," and enjoyed a long-lasting artistic partnership with him.
Chicago saxophonist Geof Bradfield doesn't necessarily believe he's going to change all that with the world premiere of his extended suite "Melba!" But when he unveils the work Saturday afternoon at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, in the first of several touring performances of the piece, he certainly will be expressing his deep admiration for Liston's outsized contributions to jazz.
"It's amazing that people don't know who she is," says Bradfield of a composer who died nearly forgotten in Los Angeles in 1999, at age 73. "A certain generation of jazz musicians, especially people who worked for Dizzy, knew her well; she was the writer. ... But my generation didn't."
1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted St.; Free; or 312-747-6900 or chicagojazzfestival.us