All posts tagged: bandleader Darcy James

Carla Bley Did It All

Carla Bley Did It All

The story of Carla Bley’s life unfolds like a Carla Bley composition: It never goes where you’d expect, but it ultimately coheres in a pleasing, singular way. Bley died on Tuesday at age 87, ending her run as perhaps the greatest living composer, as the bandleader Darcy James Argue recently described her. The American composer, keyboardist, and arranger started her career in the 1950s as a teenage cigarette girl, selling smokes to patrons at New York jazz clubs. The job and its title both give a sense of how long ago this was, and how inhospitable the environment might have been for a young, non-singing female musician in what remains a very male milieu. She met and began a relationship with the avant-garde pianist Paul Bley, who encouraged her to put her childhood musical training to work by composing. Later, she was the secret weapon of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, an ambitious melding of progressive political and musical impulses. She played with Jack Bruce of Cream and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd but never …