January Topic Article: Why Music Matters

This month I’m thinking and writing on #whyImakemusic, and on Wednesdays I want to share articles and resources that have gotten me thinking about why music matters to me and how I can better share my vision with the community.

A recent article in the Atlantic highlighted how jazz musicians communicate through improvisation, unsurprisingly using the parts of their brains dedicated to speech and syntax. On top of that- music has no discernible semantic meaning the way that speech does, because it means something different to each listener. When two musicians are improvising back and forth, they are talking- but they’re sharing more than just words.

From the article:

“If the brain evolved for the purpose of speech, it’s odd that it evolved to a capacity way beyond speech,” Limb said. “So a brain that evolved to handle musical communication—there has to be a relationship between the two. I have reason to suspect that the auditory brain may have been designed to hear music and speech is a happy byproduct.”

So in a sense- why I make music, why you make music, why most cultures have developed musical systems, has more to do with communicating beyond our normal language abilities than just developing something pleasant to listen to. And whether you make music or simply curate a listening library of your own, you engage in musical activity that fires up an important center of your humanity.

I make music…because music makes me human.

Women’s History Month Profile: Melba Liston

March feature! Each week I will profile a different woman or women in music who are particular heroes or inspiration for me.

This week is someone new to me but immediately important. Please welcome to the stage



When I saw the trombone I thought how beautiful it looked and knew I just had to have one. No one told me that it was difficult to master. All I knew was that it was pretty and I wanted one.

Jazz trombonist, arranger, composer, and band leader, Melba Liston toured with Billie Holiday, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Lewis. She began playing trombone around the age of 8, and was largely self-taught. At 16 she started her professional career at the Lincoln Theatre in Los Angeles, and by her 20s was on the road with some of the biggest jazz performers of her day. Her career spanned 40 years, encompassing her own studio album, Melba Liston and Her ‘Bones, writing and arranging for Quincy Jones, teaching music in Los Angeles and Jamaica, and even a short stint as an actress in Hollywood.

A good deal more information about the life and career of this amazing, unsung woman from jazz history can be found here: http://www.randyweston.info/randy-weston-sidemen-pages/melba-liston.html

You can find her album on iTunes and GooglePlay, and listen to tracks on YouTube. Here’s “Blues Melba” featuring the true first lady of the slide trombone, Melba Liston.