Since first making her mark on the jazz scene in the early 1960s, Carla Bley has become one of the most celebrated composers and bandleaders in the history of jazz. She has worked with a who’s who of fellow jazz greats – from Gato Barbieri, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd to Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Phil Woods – has led the late Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra for nearly half a century – and collaborated with Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Cream’s Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt, Julie Tippetts (formerly Julie Driscoll) and a host of others. Since her legendary recording Escalator Over the Hill in 1971, she has recorded thirty records with her own ensembles, and her compositions have been appeared on literally hundreds of recordings by others.
Recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2015, Bley turned 80 this past May, and celebrated with the release of her latest album Andondo el Tiempo, perhaps her most exquisite recording to date and her second trio release with bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard.
Big Ears festivalgoers will be treated to two aspects of Carla Bley’s artistry. She’ll perform some of her invigorating, classic big band works – often fueled by gospel and blues influences – with Vance Thompson’s award-winning Knoxville Jazz Orchestra on Thursday evening. Friday night will offer what The New York Times described as the “coolly ravishing” Carla Bley Trios, with Swallow and Sheppard, surely one of the dazzlingly beautiful musical experiences to be had in the world today.