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Vocalist Carla White Dies at 56

Carla White, a vocalist who studied with Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh and performed and taught all over the globe, died on Wednesday after a long bout with cancer. She was 56.

Born in Oakland, Calif., and raised in Bellport, N.Y., White’s dream was to be an improvising jazz dancer. However, after taking an interest in singing in high school, she spent two years at the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London before traveling extensively in Europe and North Africa, busking along the way and living in Volkswagen van.

Upon returning to New York in the 1970s, White studied with pianist Tristano and later Marsh before establishing her first band, a bebop quintet with trumpeter Manny Duran. In 1985 White launched her solo career, producing her first album, Orient Express for Milestone. Although she did record frequently and there are significant gaps in her discography, she did release eight albums. Her final recording, A Voice in the Night was released in 2005 on Bright Moon.

Known for abilities as a scat singer, White conducted master classes and seminars for the New School, Vermont Jazz Center, University of Northern Colorado, Sweden’s Birka School of the Arts and the Music Conservatory of Ghent in Belgium. Carla also had an active career as a voice-over artist and can currently be heard on TV and radio commercials for Estee Lauder, Neutrogena, Ethan Allen and others.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Jazz Foundation of America. A memorial celebration will be held on June 8 at St. Peters Church, 619 Lexington Ave at 54th St., New York, N.Y., at 5 p.m.

Originally Published