In the truest spirit of the jazz tradition, Carla White devoted her life to artistic exploration and growth. Born in Oakland, California and raised in Bellport, New York, Carla earliest musical education came from her parents' record collection, listening to "everything from Stravinsky to Sinatra" But her discovery of jazz at the age of 13 had a profound effect, setting her future in motion. "The first time you hear jazz - really hear it", she explains, "if it connects with your soul, it changes your life."
After years of study in music, drama and dance that included two years at London's prestigious Webber- Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, she embarked on a personal journey of exploration through Europe and North Africa. For nearly a year she traveled amidst the rich cultural diversity, singing in the streets, and even living in a cave. Remembering that uniquely edifying time Carla says: "I traveled in an old VW van with no planned itinerary. I went wherever I felt like going whenever I felt like going there. The one exception was Franco's Spain where I spent a night in prison for no reason other than being young and foreign. Everyday was a leap into the unknown. Now I satisfy my desire for adventure by leaping into a solo and exploring new musical territory. "
Upon returning to New York City in the early 70's, her jazz studies began in earnest with the legendary innovative pianist/composer Lennie Tristano. Combining the lessons learned from her mentor with the age-old jazz method of singing along with recordings of master improvisers like Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Fats Navarro, Carla developed the jazz vocabulary that has earned her such critical praise as:
"One of the most impressive performers to come along in years ...an unusually accomplished interpreter" (Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune): and "a singer who blends interpretive intelligence -with a solid musical grounding and a sure sense of swing" (Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times).
After Tristano's death in 1978, Carla continued her studies with another of his proteges, saxophonist Warne Marsh. Focusing on scat singing in the wordless instrumental style that has always been the cornerstone of jazz vocalizing, she established her first band, a bebop quintet with trumpeter Manny Duran and did a recording for Stash Records, Andruline. Cadence Magazine declared, "Carla White is a scat singer like the Pope is Catholic."
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,Davee 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.