Carla Bley obituary

Jazz musician and composer whose prolific output was deliriously entertaining, bewildering and bewitching

The jazz composer Carla Bley, who has died aged 87, created an enormous body of work with emotional punch, intellectual reach and musical depth. She was also a role model for independent musicians, with her own label and studio in New York state.

She wrote short, unforgettable tunes with the same authority that she applied to long, through-composed suites. Three works established her importance. A Genuine Tong Funeral (1968) was a “dark opera without words”, adapted for the vibraphone player Gary Burton. Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra album(1969), for which Bley arranged tunes such as We Shall Overcome and Ornette Coleman’s War Orphans, showed that she could lead an unruly crew of soloists and bond them together without losing anyone’s individuality. The third career-launcher was the ambitious “chronotransduction” Escalator Over the Hill (1971), the jazz-rock-world “opera” she made with the librettist Paul Haines.

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