Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
White, Carla (Ruth)
White, Carla (Ruth), singer, teacher, composer; b. Oakland, CA, 15 September 1951. At the age of two her family moved to Bellport, Long Island, NY. Her father, Dwain Houston White (1920-1984) was a pilot for Pan American and played trumpet as a young man. Her mother, (born Rosa Hahn, 1924) performed in summer stock as an actress and singer. Carla had a half-sister (from her mother's first marriage) Penelope Paine (1943-1968) and a half-brother (from her father's first marriage) Miles White (1946-1993). Her parents divorced in 1966 and her mother re-married Frederick Ayer II. They moved from Bellport to Boulder, CO where Carla's stepfather was a physics professor at the University.
Carla had piano lessons from about age 6-12. She was introduced to jazz at the age of 14. Jazz music inspired her to take her dance studies seriously and she went to The Perry-Mansfield School of Dance and Drama in Steamboat Springs, CO for two summers. While there, she was cast in the leads of the dramatic productions and switched her major to Drama with a Dance minor. She graduated high school from Interlochen Arts Academy in 1969 and spent that summer as an apprentice at The Westport Country Playhouse in CT. She was accepted into the prestigious drama program at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, but chose to pursue her studies at a professional two-year theatre course in London, England at The Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. She left just short of graduating and traveled throughout Morocco, Spain, France and Greece for nearly a year in a VW van with a friend. They both played guitar and sang on the streets to earn traveling money.
In 1972 Carla returned to the states to live in New York City. She was busy doing off-off Broadway shows, when she came full circle and returned to her first great love: Jazz. She began to study singing with the legendary innovative pianist/composer Lennie Tristano. She studied with him until his death in 1978. She then continued her studies with the tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh for another three years. Taking every opportunity to learn and grow, Carla waited tables at Hanratty's, a now-defunct, but well-known New York club that featured top stride pianists like Dick Wellstood, Ralph Sutton, Dave McKenna and Johnny Guarnieri. Working the late shift, she would often perform a few numbers with the featured pianists, learning in the most classic on-the-bandstand tradition.
In 1980 she began her first band, a quintet with trumpeter Manny Duran as co-leader. Carla began her solo career in 1985. Carla was named in Downbeat's 37th International Critics Poll as "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition". She had an extended engagement at The Gold Star Sardine Bar in Chicago for 8 months in 1988, where she shared the bill with pianist/singer Patricia Barber.
Over the past 15 years Carla's live performances have taken her all over the world - from top New York clubs like Birdland and The Blue Note to Mexico's Festival Internacional de Musica to well above the Arctic Circle with her summer 2000 tour of Norway and Sweden. Other highlights include New York's Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Town Hall and the Texaco Jazz Festival; The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Ottawa International Jazz Festival; the Chattanooga Riverbend Festival; and the Mellon Jazz Festival in Philadelphia.
She is also a respected teacher, having conducted seminars, workshops and master classes for The New School, Vermont Jazz Center, University of Northern Colorado, Sweden's Birka School of the Arts, and the Music Conservatory of Ghent while on tour in Belgium and The Netherlands.
Carla also has an active career as a voice-over artist and can currently be heard on TV and radio commercials for BMW, Neutrogena, Rogaine, Elizabeth Arden, and more.
In August of 2000, Carla married Clide Edwards after having lived together for nearly 18 years.
Andruline (1984); Orient Express (1986); Mood Swings (1988); Listen Here (1995); Carla White Live at Vartan Jazz (1999); Carla White Live in Mexico (2000); The Sweetest Sounds (2000); A Voice in the Night
Radio and television broadcasts:
Interviews and/or performances on WBGO, Jazz Set on NPR, APR, KJAZ, WBEZ, KCSM, WFDU, WCPN, WGVU, WDUQ, WKCR, WEVD, KPFK, WBJB, WWCS, KUVO and many others.
Video interview and a live performance with her trio from Birdland online at Global Music Network (www.gmn.com), or visit her website at www.carlawhite.com