Interview Carla Bley
I am proud to publish the interview I had with Carla Bley.
Bley was born in Oakland, California. Her father, a piano teacher and church choirmaster, encouraged her to sing and to learn to play the piano. After giving up the church to immerse herself in roller skating at the age of fourteen, she moved to New York at seventeen and became a cigarette girl at Birdland, where she met jazz pianist Paul Bley, whom she married in 1957. He encouraged her to start composing. The couple later divorced.
In 1964 she was involved in organising the Jazz Composers Guild which brought together the most innovative musicians in New York at the time. She then had a personal and professional relationship with Michael Mantler, with whom she had a daughter, Karen, now also a musician in her own right.
Bley has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, whose 1981 solo album Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports was a Carla Bley album in all but name. She arranged and composed music forCharlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and wrote A Genuine Tong Funeral for Gary Burton. Her arrangement of the score forFederico Fellini’s 8½ appeared on Hal Willner’s Nino Rota tribute record, Amarcord Nino Rota.
Her current partner, the bassist Steve Swallow, has been her closest and most consistent musical associate in recent years and the two have recorded several duet albums.
In 2005 she arranged the music for and performed on Charlie Haden’s latest Liberation Music Orchestra tour and recording, Not in Our Name. (sorce: Wikipedia.org)
I’m satisfied to call my music (or at least most of it) jazz, but others might disagree. My feeling is that jazz is a very big, inclusive world. It is clear to me that jazz has greatly expanded its vocabulary over the century of its life, but sometimes when I listen to the past masters I question this assumption.
Albums are like children. It’s unwise to favor one over any of the others.
As is the case with albums, I generally like the song I’m presently working on best. I’m currently in the final stages of a long piece for “classical” musicians and steve swallow and me. It’s in my mind almost all day, and often a good part of the night as well. It’s difficult for me to think for even a moment about any of my earlier pieces.
For the last two nights, after dinner, we’ve listened to Charlie Parker. And the night before those we listened to Satie. Each of them sounded fresh and contemporary, continually inspiring. It’s good to know that music can outlive its own time.
I think most young players are unaware of their effect on their elders, but it is considerable. I love being surprised by a phrase or a gesture in music, and this most often happens when I listen to young players. I’m not sure what young players might find useful in what I do; that’s for them to figure out.
I’d say the clock is always turning. That’s what clocks do.
I still listen to recordings of the Basie Band of that time, a band I heard night after night when I worked as a cigarette girl in Birdland. tTat band, and the writers who supplied it with music, continue to amaze and delight me. I hope to become Ernie Wilkins some day.
Holland asked. I went, as is still the case, wherever I was called. That’s the way life is, in the world of music.
There appears to be some truth to what dave says, as an increasing percentage of my work seems to happen in places I haven’t been before. I’m happy about this; these places are as new to me as I am to them. I’m always looking for food I’ve never tasted, buildings I’ve never seen, languages I haven’t heard before.
How do you manage to continue to expand, when so many of your contemporaries are contracting?
I mentioned my current piece, involving “classical” musicians. I’ve also recently finished a long set of pieces for big band and boys choir, which i’m hoping to record soon. And there will also be an album out soon of trio music wit Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow; we’ll be touring in Europe in the fall.