Carla Bley Interview

Carla Bley, Treibhaus Innsbruck 2009. Concert ...


There’s a radio of some mysterious origin, buried deep in the brain of 80-year-old jazz maven Carla Bley, that’s always on.

It’s unclear from where it originates — her family of origin, perhaps, given that her father was a piano teacher and church choir leader; or the time she spent as a cigarette girl hawking wares to customers at New York’s iconic Birdland jazz club. But it’s always broadcasting, Bley told The Daily Times recently.

“Something is always, constantly playing in my head, and Steve Swallow (Bley’s longtime partner and a renowned jazz bassist) is the same way,” said Bley, who makes her first trip to East Tennessee for one of her extremely rare North American performances next week for Knoxville’s annual Big Ears Festival. “Sometimes, we’ll say to each other, ‘What are you hearing?’ But it goes away when you’re working on your own music.”