A superior altoist whose bluesy sound is often more accessible than the music he plays, Carlos Ward is best known as a valuable sideman. He grew up in Seattle, started on clarinet when he was 13, and while in the military studied at the Navy School of Music. He had opportunities to play music while stationed in Germany (including with Albert Mangelsdorff), where he heard Eric Dolphy, a major influence on his sound. After being discharged, Ward sat in regularly with John Coltrane during "'Trane's" 1965 visit to Seattle, and after moving to New York, he also played with Coltrane's unrecorded octet. Ward freelanced in New York, performing with top "new jazz" artists including Sunny Murray, Don Cherry, Sam Rivers, Rashied Ali, and Paul Motian. He joined the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, yet also was a part of B.T. Express, a big-selling funk group.