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Pianist Barbara Carroll Dies at 92

Pioneering jazz performer's career lasted seven decades

Barbara Carroll with Clyde Lombardi and Chuck Wayne (photo by William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress)
Barbara Carroll with Clyde Lombardi and Chuck Wayne at the Downbeat circa 1947 (photo by William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress)

Barbara Carroll, a jazz pianist, vocalist and composer who elegantly mixed swing, bebop and classical impressionism, and whose career extended over seven decades, died on Feb. 12 at age 92. She was a regular performer at various clubs in New York City for many years, and had released a new live recording, Barbara Carroll Plays at Birdland, last December.

As a teenager, she played local dances, eventually saving enough money to enroll at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. By 1947 she had ventured to NYC, initially seeking work as “Bobbie Carroll” to sidestep the existing prejudice against women musicians at many clubs. Her musicianship quickly made the obfuscation unnecessary, impressing the crowd at her first gig—playing after Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra at the Downbeat Club. The next year, Carroll formed her first trio which at first included Chuck Wayne and then Charlie Byrd on guitar. She finally settled on the classic piano-bass-drums format, and recorded several albums in the ’50s with the Barbara Carroll Trio for Atlantic, RCA and Verve.

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