Carla Bley | Artist

Carla Bley | Artist

Tags: Era_1970s, Gender_Female, Genre_Fusion, Genre_Jazz, Origin_USA, Type_Artist

Lovella May Borg aka Carla Bley was an American jazz composer, pianist, organist and bandleader born 1936 in Oakland, California. She was an important figure in the free jazz movement of the 1960s as soloist and ensemble leader, continuing to perform and produce excellent works up until her passing in October 2023. She was perhaps best known for her jazz opera opus Escalator over the Hill. In 1964 Bley was involved in organising the Jazz Composers Guild which brought together the most innovative musicians in New York at the time and released the critically acclaimed experimental big-band album The Jazz Composer's Orchestra. Bley collaborated with countless artists from the Jazz and Rock worlds, such as Charlie Haden, Gary Burton, Don Cherry, Nick Mason, Jack Bruce and Robert Wyatt. Later she worked with her partner, bassist Steve Swallow. Born to Swedish parents, Carla's father, Emil Borg, was a piano teacher and church choirmaster who encouraged her to sing and learn piano. After giving up church to immerse herself in roller skating at the age of fourteen, she later moved to NYC at seventeen and became a cigarette girl at Birdland. There she met jazz pianist Paul Bley, who encouraged her to start composing. She toured with Bley under the name Karen Borg before changing it to Carla Borg. She married Bley and took his name and after their subsequent divorce kept the surname professionally. A number of musicians began to record Bley's compositions: George Russell recorded "Bent Eagle" for his album Stratusphunk; Jimmy Giuffre recorded "Ictus" on his album Thesis; and Paul Bley's album Barrage consisted entirely of her works. In 1964, while involved with the Jazz Composers Guild, she had a personal and professional relationship with Michael Mantler, with whom she had a daughter, Karen Mantler, who also became a musician. Bley and Mantler were married from 1965-1991. With Mantler, she co-led the Jazz Composers' Orchestra and started the JCOA record label which issued a number of historic recordings by Clifford Thornton, Don Cherry, and Roswell Rudd, as well as her own magnum opus Escalator Over The Hill. Bley and Mantler were pioneers in the development of independent artist-owned record labels, and also started WATT Records and the now defunct New Music Distribution Service. Over the course her career Bley released 24 studio albums, including collaborations and big band works. Outstanding albums include Escalator Over the Hill (1971), Tropic Appetites (1974), 13 & 3/4 (1975), European Tour 1977 (1978), Musique Mécanique (1979), The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu (2007), and the live album Goes to Church (1996). The Guardian, in their obituary of the artist, described Bley as a "Jazz musician and composer whose prolific output was deliriously entertaining, bewildering and bewitching.. (who) created an enormous body of work with emotional punch, intellectual reach and musical depth".

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Featured Albums: Carla Bley

Related Artists: Steve Swallow, The Jazz Composer's Orchestra, Gary Burton, Paul Bley

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