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A pianist, Carroll studied classical music, but preferred the jazz she heard on the family’s radio, and quit the New England Conservatory of Music because classes got in the way of playing gigs in New York City. Other musicians were impressed: in 1947, pianist Leonard Feather called her “the first girl ever to play bebop piano.” Yes, jazz was dominated by men, but Carroll stood out, and not just because of her bright red hair. She got many gigs by booking as “Bobbie Carroll”; by the time anyone knew “Bobbie” wasn’t a man, it was too late to get someone else — but she proved her chops again and again. Once she was accepted, she used her fame to promote other woman musicians. She got recording contracts, and was often seen on this new medium called “television” (especially on the New York-produced Today show). A 1978 two-week booking in one New York lounge was so successful it was extended ...for 25 years. She didn’t stop performing until December 2016, which is also the month her last album was released. “I’ve led a charmed life,” Carroll said at the time. She died in Manhattan on February 12, at 92.
Barbara Carroll performing in 2007. Photo: Dick Sheridan.
From This is True for 19 February 2017
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