Carla Bley has been married to three notable individuals throughout her life. She was previously married to Steve Swallow in 1991, Michael Mantler from 1967 to 1991, and Paul Bley from 1957 to 1964.
Who was Carla Bley?
Carla Bley was an American jazz composer, pianist, organist, and bandleader.
Carla Bley biography
Carla Bley was born in Oakland, California, in 1936 to Emil Borg, a piano teacher and church choirmaster, who provided her with guidance in singing and piano playing. Unfortunately, her mother, Arline Anderson, passed away when Bley was just eight years old.
At the age of fourteen, Bley decided to leave the church and focus on her passion for roller skating. Subsequently, she relocated to New York at the age of seventeen and secured a position as a cigarette girl at Birdland, where she had the opportunity to meet renowned jazz pianist Paul Bley.
Under the name Karen Borg, she embarked on a tour with him before ultimately changing her name to Carla Borg in 1957, the same year she married Paul Bley and adopted his surname. It was Paul who encouraged her to explore her talent for composing. Although the couple divorced in 1967, Carla Bley chose to retain his surname professionally.
Carla Bley career
Several notable musicians recorded Carla Bley’s compositions during her career. In 1960, George Russell included “Bent Eagle” on his album Stratusphunk. Jimmy Giuffre also recorded “Ictus” for his album Thesis. Additionally, Paul Bley’s Barrage was comprised entirely of her compositions. Bley considered herself primarily a writer, describing herself as 99 percent composer and one percent pianist.
In 1964, Bley played a key role in organizing the Jazz Composers Guild, which brought together the most innovative musicians in New York at that time. She formed a personal and professional relationship with Michael Mantler, with whom she had a daughter named Karen Mantler, who also pursued a career in music. Bley and Mantler were married from 1965 to 1991.
Together, they co-led the Jazz Composers’ Orchestra and established the JCOA record label. This label released significant recordings by Clifford Thornton, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, as well as Bley’s own monumental work Escalator Over The Hill and Mantler’s The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra LPs. Bley and Mantler were pioneers in the development of independent artist-owned record labels and also founded the now defunct New Music Distribution Service, which specialized in distributing recordings of “creative improvised music” from small, independent labels.
Bley also arranged and composed music for bassist Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and wrote A Genuine Tong Funeral for vibraphonist Gary Burton. She collaborated with various other artists, including Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt, and Nick Mason, the drummer for the rock group Pink Floyd. Mason’s solo debut album Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports was entirely written by Bley and featured many of her regular band musicians. Brian Olewnick of AllMusic even considers it to be essentially a Carla Bley album in all but name.
Carla Bley death: How did she die?
At the age of 87, Bley passed away from brain cancer on October 17, 2023, at her Willow, New York, home.
Who is Carla Bley husband?
Over her life, Carla Bley has been married to three well-known people. She had previously been married to Paul Bley from 1957 to 1964, Michael Mantler from 1967 to 1991, and Steve Swallow in 1991.