Little Melba and her Big Tromboneby Kathryn Russell-Brown (Author) , Frank Morrison (Illustrator)
It was the early 1920’s and in Kansas city, there is music in the air. Jazz and blues bands are at the corner of every street. Anyone who wanted to make music, wanted a gig in KC! And little Melba is soaking in all the music.
Little Melba sure is special. As far as her memory goes, she has loved listening to music. The plink of a guitar, hummm of a bass, thrum-thrum of the drums and the ping-pang of the piano. Melba has music in her mind even when she is asleep!
Melba was only seven when she had a chance to choose an instrument to play. When she spies a long funny looking horn, Melba is smitten! But the trombone is BIG and Melba is well.. small! Momma isn’t too sure, but Melba pleads and gets her wish.
At a very young age, Melba teaches herself to play a very difficult instrument. She has the music in her head. Now she must produce it on her instrument. And she does so with grit, determination and charm!
In high school, this child genius is the star player of the band. Other kids are jealous and struggle to keep up, but nothing stops Melba. She turns her hurt into soulful music.
Its 1943 and Melba is 17. Melba writes her own music now. She is part of a new band and travels with them all over the world. She composes more songs, arranges them, and spins rhythms, harmonies and melodies. Her bold notes mesmerizes the crowds.. Yet, Melba is lonely. She is the only woman on the band and some of the men are cruel to her. In certain cities, she faces discrimination. But despite all the bad, ugly and wrong, Melba persists. Her music keeps her going.
“Little Melba and her Big Trombone” is a beautiful dedication to the extraordinary musician Melba Liston (1926-99). Russell-Brown captures the music with clever onomatopoeia. Exaggerated lines of the trombone, muted colors of orange and blues capture the spirit and essence of music. Our favorite picture was the very last page which shows Melba in a beautiful gown stretching her hand to play her trombone. The poise and grace of the woman and instrument are beautifully captured by Morrison.
A gem of a biography and a lovely tribute to a musical prodigy, Melba Liston.