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Carla Bley


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Carla Bley, née Borg, (born May 11, 1936) is an American jazz composer, pianist, organist and band leader. An important figure in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, she is perhaps best known for her jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill (released as a triple LP set), as well as a book of compositions that have been performed by many other artists, including Gary Burton, Jimmy Giuffre, George Russell, Art Farmer and her ex-husband Paul Bley.

Bley was born in Oakland, California. Her father, a piano teacher and church choirmaster, encouraged her to sing and to learn to play the piano. After giving up the church to immerse herself in roller skating at the age of fourteen [1], she moved to New York at seventeen and became a cigarette girl at Birdland, where she met jazz pianist Bley, whom she married in 1957 [2]. He encouraged her to start composing. The two later divorced.

Her compositions were soon beginning to appear on record — for example, “Bent Eagle” on George Russell’s Stratusphunk in 1960, and then Ictus on Jimmy Giuffre’s Thesis and Paul Bley’s Barrage.

In 1964 she was involved in organising the Jazz Composers Guild which brought together the most innovative musicians in New York at the time. She then had a personal and professional relationship with Michael Mantler, with whom she had a daughter, Karen, now also a musician in her own right.


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  • AlaTis-BnT

    She has some great compositions and tunes, but by god, that hairstyle...

    27 Jul 2:28am Reply
  • bazzarelli

    my god, this woman. fuck fuck fuck.

    3 May 4:42pm Reply
  • barrospablito


    26 Apr 2011 Reply
  • hommedk

    soothe me...

    25 Mar 2011 Reply
  • the_Crowder

    "Pretentious" - The word people (e.g. MrLJM) use to describe things that are frighteningly high-minded (i.e. "chronotransduction"). Don't understand something? Don't bother trying, it's just pretentious arse-talking babble-speak (altogether meaningless)!

    19 Feb 2011 Reply
  • the_Crowder

    I'm just going to call this album "music," because I'm too afraid of being called pretentious to come up with something more descriptive.

    19 Feb 2011 Reply
  • naonis


    6 Oct 2010 Reply
  • arturomeade

    carla la reina

    25 Aug 2009 Reply
  • Bellatrixa

    what a poweful lady.

    6 Jun 2009 Reply
  • EarOpen

    Carla Bley's music is the best

    5 Jun 2009 Reply
  • henkdo

    EOTH: not to forget Jack Bruce on bass and some of the best vocals he ever did

    23 Jan 2009 Reply
  • messo

    Not too familiar with her music, but Birds of Paradise is one epic track :)

    23 Jan 2009 Reply
  • peterwhumphreys

    I agree Escalator Over the Hill is a masterpiece and there are artists involved such as John McLaughlin who was playing at this time with Miles and Don Preston from the Mothers on vocals.

    10 Jan 2009 Reply
  • sophteonal

    Escalator Over The Hill is so amazing. Definitely a masterpiece, in my book...the best piece of music I've heard in quite a while. I thought that Tropic Appetites was good, but not as good as it. I highly recommend her music from this period to fans of avant-prog/RIO music such as Henry Cow/Art Bears etc- I think she shares a lot of the same influences from European/cabaret music...

    7 Nov 2008 Reply
  • Hypnosugar

    Why so many Banana tunes??

    30 Oct 2008 Reply
  • Hypnosugar

    Scary picture indeed o_0

    30 Oct 2008 Reply
  • LatinChillFox

    Incredibly good! LOOOOOOVE her music! She is awesome!

    22 Sep 2008 Reply
  • SirAlecHendrix

    Carla Bley—now playing in the brandnew ➤ j a z z | h a u s

    21 Sep 2008 Reply
  • neuharmonia

    4X4 is my favorite. Awesome!

    23 Aug 2008 Reply
  • ThaDrizzle

    those charts in the real books that no one knows...

    9 Jul 2008 Reply
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