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Carla Bley

Carla BleyAKA Carla Borg

Born: 11-May-1938
Birthplace: Oakland, CA

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Pianist, Composer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Pianist and composer

Born to musician parents, Carla Bley was immersed in music since her birth -- although primarily in the context of the church. She played piano and organ at various church services beginning at the age of 4. By the age of 19, she had developed an interest in jazz and moved to New York where she met her first husband, musician Paul Bley. At this time, Carla's focus moved from performing to composition, first for her husband's band, but eventually for an ever-widening circle of other musicians.

By 1964 Carla Bley had separated from Paul, and she joined the Jazz Composers Guild. It was while active in the Guild that she met her second husband, trumpeter Michael Mantler, and the two founded the Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra (later just The Jazz Composers Orchestra). Soon after they both created the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association as a non-profit to help fund both their own activities and those of other musicians pursuing unconventional jazz forms.

Eventually the JCOA ran out of funds, but with the help of musician Gary Burton, the first significant recording of Bley's compositions, A Genuine Tong Funeral, was released on RCA. This was followed by an invitation from Charlie Haden to compose and arrange for his Liberation Music Orchestra. In 1972 Bley completed her most ambitious (and subsequently most well-known) project, the opera Escalator Over the Hill, which was written in collaboration with poet Paul Haines and featured an enormous cast of musicians that included John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce, Linda Ronstadt, Don Cherry, and her daughter Karen Mantler.

In the three decades that have followed, Carla Bley has remained constantly active, performing with and composing for a vast roster of musicians all over the world. In 1973 Mantler and Bley founded the record label Watt Works, and this has continued to be the outlet for Bley's prolific recording career.

Father: Emil Carl Borg
Mother: Arlene Anderson
Husband: Paul Bley (musician, m. 27-Jan-1959, div. 1967)
Husband: Michael Mantler (musician, m. 29-Sep-1967, div. 1992, one daughter)
Daughter: Karen Mantler (musician, b. 1966)
Boyfriend: Steve Swallow (musician)

    The Jazz Composers Orchestra Pianist/Composer (1964-68)
    Liberation Music Orchestra Composer/Arranger (1969)
    The Carla Bley Band Pianist/Composer (1977-)

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