RIP Carla Bley (May 11, 1936 – October 17, 2023)

I just learned that Carla Bley died a week ago today at age 87. I’ve been a fan for some time. What an iconoclast. and what a talented, much undervalued jazz presence. She was a force to be reckoned with, a pianist and a great composer/arranger “with great legs,” as one of her albums noted. She was married to Steve Swallow, himself a jazz icon who was the first jazz bassist to embrace the electric bass. (He was around Berklee when the first Real Books were made, sometime around 1958).

Carla Bley, the pianist behind some of the most beloved compositions in the jazz canon, who recorded over two dozen albums between 1966 and 2019, died Tuesday. Her death was confirmed by her husband and longtime collaborator, bassist Steve Swallow.

Bley arranged and composed music for bassist Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and wrote A Genuine Tong Funeral for vibraphonist Gary Burton. Bley collaborated with a number of other artists, including Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt, and Nick Mason, drummer for the rock group Pink Floyd. Mason’s solo debut album Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports was written entirely by Bley, and features, alongside Mason on drums, many of her regular band musicians, leading Brian Olewnick of AllMusic to consider it a Carla Bley album in all but name.

Here’s a link to an Atlantic article. (Don’t know if it’s hidden behind a paywall.) Her biography makes for an interesting read.

I’ll greatly miss her.

“Lawns” (1987) is one of my favorites and is first up in the list of tunes. Enjoy! :musical_keyboard:


Lawns- very nice. Thanks for sharing

Thanks for the info! I don’t know about underrated though, she seems to be a musician that most musicians somewhat into jazz has heard of and everybody has deep respect for?!


When I said, that she was a “much undervalued jazz presence,” I was thinking about how, apart from musicians, she is largely unknown by the general public.

Of course, I see what you mean. In that sense I just think she shares the fate with a great majority of high quality jazz musicians and composers; they are largely unknown to the general public.