Barbara Carroll, Jazz Pianist, Is Dead at 92

Obituaries   Barbara Carroll, Jazz Pianist, Is Dead at 92 The acclaimed artist made her Broadway bow in 1953.
Barbara Carroll
Barbara Carroll Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Barbara Carroll, the critically acclaimed jazz pianist, singer, and composer, who was born January 25, 1925, in Worcester, Massachusetts, has passed away at age 92, her booking manager confirmed to Playbill.com.

Ms. Carroll's lengthy career began in 1947 when she played her first New York engagement at the Downbeat Club opposite Dizzy Gillespie. Throughout the 1950s, she and her trio, which included Chuck Wayne on guitar and Clyde Lombardi on bass, played venues around the country. She recorded her first album for Atlantic Records in 1951; among her numerous discs are Something to Live For, I Wished on the Moon, One Morning in May, Everything I Love, This Heart of Mine, All in Fun, Old Friends, and more.

Her one Broadway outing was in the 1953 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Me & Juliet, playing a rehearsal pianist named Chris.

Charlie Byrd eventually replaced Wayne in the Barbara Carroll Trio, and Lombardi was succeeded by Joe Shulman, whom Carroll married in 1954. The marriage was short-lived, as Mr. Shulman died of a heart attack in 1957. Ms. Carroll's second marriage was to Bert Block; the two would later welcome a daughter, Suzanne. Mr. Block died in 1986 of emphysema.

Following the birth of her daughter in 1962, Ms. Carroll left the jazz scene. “I didn't want to travel,” Carroll told the New York Daily News in an interview in 2011. “That was a period when jazz was not doing that well, after the Beatles came and that kind of music became popular. But jazz always has an audience, a very loyal audience, despite all those claims that it's dying.”

In 1978 she returned to the New York jazz scene and became a regal presence at the Carlyle's Bemelmans Bar for 25 years. Ms. Carroll shifted to midtown venues in her last years, playing the Oak Room of the Algonquin and, more recently, the jazz venue Birdland, performing regularly with bassist Jay Leonhart.

In a July 2016 review of Ms. Carroll's performance at Birdland, the New York Times' Stephen Holden said the artist “helped pioneer a spare, agile style of bebop, knows practically every jazz and popular standard in the repertory.” He added, “Ms. Carroll plays with an impeccable technique in which harmonies burst into flower. In recent decades she has embraced singing in a parlando style that is witty, literate, discreetly sexy and at times heartbreakingly honest.”

In October 2016 singer/pianist Eric Yves Garcia paid tribute to Ms. Carroll, among other piano-playing stars, in his new cabaret show, Keeper of the Keys. At that time Garcia told Playbill.com, “We’ve got a direct Broadway link in the Barbara Carroll segment: in 1953, with The King and I and South Pacific running concurrently, Rodgers & Hammerstein debuted Me & Juliet at the Majestic Theatre. It was a backstage musical and, featured in the cast onstage with her trio was Barbara Carroll, in the role of Chris, the rehearsal accompanist. She was given Rodgers’ nod to riff on melodies (which was rare). The show ran about 10 months...and produced the standout song ‘No Other Love.’”