Carla Bley at the Monterey Festival
Carla Bley

Listen to JazzSet Listen to Part 1

Listen to JazzSet Listen to Part 2

Pianist Carla Bley was only 19 when she left California's Bay Area for New York in the late 1950s. She worked for awhile as a cigarette girl at Birdland, and met pianist Paul Bley. He and others championed her experimental tunes, with their daring and humorous departures from the usual bebop.

In the mid-'60s, Carla and trumpeter Mike Mantler, her second husband, founded the Jazz Composers' Orchestra to play free-jazz compositions. Carla would dig into the piano, swaying like a musical blonde haystack. Carla and Mike formed their own record company. They also had a daughter, Karen Mantler, who today writes music herself. Over a lifetime of composing (which Carla says is a satisfying but not very enjoyable activity), Bley has created a large body of work that is both satisfying AND very enjoyable to listen to.

This time on JazzSet, we'll hear the prize-winning composer's new four-part suite, commissioned by the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival and performed by a 17-piece band. The sounds are intriguing, dissonant, emotional, sometimes raunchy, and the soloists seem to be having FUN. So does the audience, and so will you, listening to Appearing Nightly at The Black Orchid on JazzSet.

The story behind the commission is that, at age 17, Carla had her first and last job as a cocktail pianist at a Monterey club called the Black Orchid. She was not yet an improviser. As she recalled, "I did Richard Rodgers pieces - things like 'Where or When,' or 'Hello, Young Lovers.' One night one of the soldiers at the bar asked me to play 'Hello, Dolly,' and I was so grossed out! I just did what I wanted to do . . ."

Bley plans to record Appearing Nightly at the Black Orchid, along with additional music she's writing in the Tin Pan Alley tradition. As we've come to expect, her approach will be original. Her current CD is Lost Chords (ital) on the Watt/ECM label, with her partner, bassist Steve Swallow, Andy Sheppard and Billy Drummond.

Mary Fettig, alto sax
George Young, alto sax
Roger Eddy, tenor sax
Andy Sheppard, tenor sax
Ray Loekle, baritone sax
Steve Campos, trumpet
Louis Fasman, trumpet
Mike Olmos, trumpet
John Worley, trumpet
Marc Bolin, trombone
Dave Martell, trombone
Hart Smith, trombone
Marty Wehner, trombone
Weber Iago, organ
Steve Swallow, bass
Bill Drummond, drums

"On Stage in Cages"
"One Way"
"Appearing Nightly at The Black Orchid"
"Movement 1 - 40 On/20 Off"
"Movement 2 - Second Round"
"Movement 3 - What Would You Like to Hear?"
"Movement 4 - Last Call"

Carla Brey Biography
Monterey Jazz Festival

Tim Jackson is executive director of the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Field producer and music mixer is Ron Davis and his crew from A Wing and a Prayer sound company.
Writer Jill McManus.
Technical Director Duke Markos.
Producer Becca Pulliam
Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III @ Jazz 88 WBGO in Newark, NJ