Carla Bley, née Borg, (born May 11, 1936) is an American jazz composer, pianist, organist and band leader. An important figure in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, she is perhaps best known for her jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill (released as a triple LP set), as well as a book of compositions that have been performed by many other artists, including Gary Burton, Jimmy Giuffre, George Russell, Art Farmer and her ex-husband Paul Bley.
Bley was born in Oakland, California. Her father, a piano teacher and church choirmaster, encouraged her to sing and to learn to play the piano. After giving up the church to immerse herself in roller skating at the age of fourteen, she moved to New York at seventeen and became a cigarette girl at Birdland, where she met jazz pianist Bley, whom she married in 1957. He encouraged her to start composing. The two later divorced.
Her compositions were soon beginning to appear on record — for example, "Bent Eagle" on George Russell's Stratusphunk in 1960, and then Ictus on Jimmy Giuffre's Thesis and Paul Bley's Barrage.