Navigation for Composer of the Week

Carla Bley

Norman Meehan takes us from Carla Bley’s beginnings as ‘Lovella May Borg’ in a religious Californian family, through her first exposure to jazz, to her first job as a cigarette girl at Birdland in New York.

Bley began by writing tunes for small jazz groups but gradually moved into writing for larger ensembles. She started writing specifically for particular players and that had become a strength of her work by the mid-60s.

After her experimental opera Escalator over the Hill, Bley turned to rock/ jazz fusion in the late 70s, but had returned primarily to jazz ten years later and she has continued in that fashion ever since.

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