NEA Jazz Masters: Carla Bley

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced next year’s NEA Jazz Masters. They are composer, pianist, Carla Bley conductingarranger and bandleader Carla Bley (pictured); saxophonists George Coleman and Charles Lloyd; and—for jazz advocacy—Joe Segal, whose Jazz Showcase in Chicago has presented the music for more than 60 years. They will receive their awards at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 20, 2015, during Jazz Appreciation Month.How better to recognize them now than to share memorable performances? Over the next few days, Rifftides will bring you videos of the honorees, beginning with Carla Bley.

Immersed in jazz since her teens, Ms. Bley quickly developed into a composer and arranger of striking originality, boldness and humor. She continues to write for groups ranging from duos to big bands. As leader, arranger, composer and pianist she has collaborated with or written for, among others, Paul Bley, Gary Burton, Art Farmer, George Russell, Tony Williams and, in dozens of projects over the years, electric bassist Steve Swallow. Here she is with Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard at the 2012 Cully Jazz Festival in the Normandy region of France, playing “Útviklingsaang,” first recorded on her Social Studies album.

For a biography of Carla Bley, go here. Since the program began in 1982, there have been 140 NEA Jazz Masters. The first three were Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie and Sun Ra. To see the complete list, go here.

Next time: George Coleman

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. dick vartanian says

    Very good. I had forgotten about Ms, Bley because I haven’t heard her works for years, I think this would have been much better as a duo, i.e.,no sax

  2. says

    I have loved Andy Sheppard’s playing on this piece (and other Bley records) since hearing Social Studies when it was new. No doubt Bley and Swallow would reach deep into my heart as a duo on this piece. Nonetheless, I have always assumed “Útviklingsaang” was always meant to include Sheppard’s amazing playing.

    • Kevin Whitehead says

      Actually, Tony Dagradi was the tenor player on 1980’s Social Studies. Sheppard didn’t start recording till the following year, and first teamed with Bley on the 1988 date ‘Fleur Carnivore.’ But Andy does do a nice version of ‘Utviklingssang’ on 4 x 4, waxed in 1999.