Contents


Biography

Carla Bley was born in Oakland, California in 1936. Her father Emil Borg, a piano teacher and
church organist, began giving her music lessons when she was three years old and she was
soon playing at church functions. But her musical education ended at the age of eight. Her
formal education stopped entirely when she dropped out of high school after completing the
tenth grade.
Carla Bley
During her adolescence Carla was drawn to jazz and moved to New York City to be closer to
the musicians she admired. She resumed her musical education by working as a cigarette girl at
the notorious Birdland jazz club, where she was able to hear the greatest jazz musicians of the
day. She met pianist Paul Bley and eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where Paul and his
quartet had a steady gig at the Hillcrest Club. She began to write music. When saxophonist
Ornette Coleman came on the scene in the mid-fifties, Paul Bley immediately hired him and
Carla was exposed nightly to ‘free’ playing, a powerful influence that was to affect her writing for
many years.

In the early sixties Paul and Carla returned to New York. Soon George Russell, Jimmy Giuffre,
Tony Williams and others began to play and record her compositions. During this period she
also worked in the cloakrooms of Basin Street and the Jazz Gallery in order to hear as much
music as possible. She was a member of The Jazz Composer’s Guild and met composer
Michael Mantler at the meetings. They formed a group called The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra,
and soon became personally involved; she left Paul Bley and moved in with Michael Mantler. In
1966 they had a daughter, Karen, who was to be Carla’s only offspring.
Carla Bley
At the end of the sixties Gary Burton recorded Carla’s first extended work, A Genuine Tong
Funeral. Shortly after, Charlie Haden asked her to arrange and write for The Liberation Music
Orchestra. Her next major work, with words by Paul Haines, Escalator Over The Hill, was
recorded on the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Association’s label, JCOA. It received the French
award Oscar du Disque de Jazz. Soon she and Michael Mantler founded The New Music
Distribution Service, which distributed independent recordings.
Carla Bley
In 1972 Carla received a Guggenheim Fellowship. She and Mantler started their own record
company, WATT. Its first release was Carla’s Tropic Appetites, another project with poet Paul
Haines. In 1974 The Ensemble, a group of New York players, commissioned a piece for
chamber orchestra. Titled ¾, it was conducted by Dennis Russell Davies and featured pianist
Keith Jarrett. It was later performed by Speculum Musicae featuring Ursula Oppens, and
recorded for the WATT label with Carla as the soloist. In1975 she was in a band with Jack
Bruce and Mick Taylor, and lived in London for six months. After the band prematurely broke up
she returned home and decided to start her own band. Over the next six years the Carla Bley
Band, which consisted of six horns and a rhythm section, toured Europe and Japan, and made
five albums on the WATT label. The band also recorded a movie soundtrack for the Claude
Miller film Mortelle Randonee and played Carla’s arrangement of Nino Rota’s music for 8 ½ on
Hal Willner’s Fellini tribute album. During this period she also did recording projects for other
labels with Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, Stuff, and Charlie Haden.

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Discography

As leader
Watt/35
Carla’s Christmas Carols
Watt/33
Appearing Nightly
Watt/34
The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu
Watt/32
The Lost Chords
Watt/31
Looking For America
Watt/30
4 x 4
Watt/29
Are We There Yet?
Watt/28
Fancy Chamber Music
Watt/27
Goes to Church
Watt/26
Songs With Legs
Watt/25
Big Band Theory
Watt/24
Go Together
Watt/23
The Very Big Carla Bley Band
Watt/21
Fleur Carnivore
Watt/20
Duets
Watt/17
Sextet
Watt/16
Night-Glo
Watt/14
Heavy Heart
Watt/12-1/2
I Hate To Sing
Watt/12
Live!
Phonogram
Mortelle Randonnee
Watt/11
Social Studies
Watt/09
Musique Mecanique
Watt/08
European Tour 1977
Watt/06
Dinner Music
Watt/01
Tropic Appetites
JCOA
Escalator Over The Hill
Selected others
Verve France
Charlie Haden, Not In Our Name
Virgin Classics
Karen Mantler’s Pet Project
XtraWatt/02
Steve Swallow, Carla
Blue Note
Charlie Haden, Dreamkeeper
A&M
Various Artists, Lost In The Stars, The Music of Kurt Weill
A&M
Various Artists, That’s The Way I Feel Now, A Tribute To Thelonius Monk
Celluloid
Golden Palominos, Drunk With Passion
Hannibal
Various Artists, Amarcord Nino Rota
CBS
Nick Mason, Fictitious Sports
ECM
Charlie Haden, Ballad of The Fallen
Watt/03
Michael Mantler, 13 & 3/4
JCOA
Michael Mantler, The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra
Impulse
Charlie Haden, Liberation Music Orchestra
Fontana
Michael Mantler, Jazz Realities
RCA
Gary Burton, A Genuine Tong Funeral

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