Saturday, February 18, 2017

Barbara Carroll's first gig in NYC

(All the photos below are by William P. Gottlieb, and are available at the Library of Congress website.—click on them for a larger view.)

Pianist and singer Barbara Carroll passed away on February 12. She was 92, and hadn't quite retired. She was a two-handed pianist, as Hank Jones and Billy Taylor were, with big ears, and was active throughout her life, with a pause in the 1960s to raise a child. She has plenty of music available, much of it in trio format. Her "repertory" recordings for SESAC from 1959 (available as a download or via streaming through the "... And More Bears" label) are well worth a listen.

Carroll had piano lessons from a very early age, and attended the New England Conservatory, although her enthusiasm was aimed at jazz. During World War II, she toured her all-fermale trio around army camps in that part of the country, and after that, when she was just 22 years old, she landed her first gig in the Big Apple, almost by chance...
"When I came to New York, I knew nobody there except one musician, who introduced me to an agent, and immediately he was fortunate enough to get me a job opposite Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. I had a trio of my own, which consisted of Chuck Wayne on guitar, Clyde Lombardi on bass, and myself. Needless to say, I was so impressed with these two marvellous musicians I was working with that I was practically overwhelmed. Plus sharing the engagement with Dizzy’s band, which at that time included some great players like Ray Brown on bass, John Lewis on piano. Really fantastic."

Barbara Carroll, Clyde Lombardi, Chuck Wayne
Downbeat Club, c. 14-20 August 1947


There were two acts, Dizzy and then my trio... and it was heaven.
 
Charlie Parker was working at the Three Deuces; Art Tatum, Billie Holiday, they were all there. When I came to New York, Marian [McPartland] was here and Mary Lou Williams was in town, but there were very few female players. I remember one time on 52nd Street, standing outside the Downbeat Club, and Sarah Vaughan [whose skill as a pianist is not as well known as her singing] was there. Charlie Parker introduced us, saying, ‘I think you two chick piano players should know one another.’ Those were the days of ‘You play good for a girl’ or ‘You play like a man.’ That was the ultimate compliment.

The band in the mirror: Chuck Wayne, Carroll, Dizzy Gillespie, Clyde Lombardi
Watching them: Charlie Parker and Red Rodney
Downbeat Club, c. 14-20 August 1947
Remember, I was so very young and impressionable. The dressing rooms at the club were upstairs, and Dizzy would come up behind me as I was going to the dressing room, and go 'Argghh,' and scare me, in his inimitable way.

***

In the image above, with Charlie Parker and Red Rodney, Carroll has been sometimes mistaken for pianist/vibist Margie Hyams, but a closer look to this image and the one at the top makes it clear that it is indeed Carroll (here reversed from the mirror image):

Barbara Carroll and Chuck Wayne.
Downbeat Club, c. 14-20 August 1947.
Regarding Red Rodney, all of 19-years old at the time the picture was taken, he was still two years away from joining Bird in his quintet. For now, Rodney was playing with tenor sax Georgie Auld's band at the Troubadour, at a nearby location. As for the date these pictures were taken, the Downbeat had Dizzy's big band, and their opening act, Carroll's trio, from July 10 to August 28; during that long gig at the Downbeat—they don't make them like that any more—Bird was next door, at the Three Deuces, from 7 to 20 August, whereas Auld, with Rodney on board, opened at the Troubadour on August 14.

The high resolution of Gottlieb's pictures at the LoC website allows for some details to be scrutinized.

For instance, here

Clyde Lombardi, Barbara Carroll and Chuck Wayne.
Downbeat Club, c. 14-20 August 1947
The trio are checking a tune called "Duketation":

"Duketation"
which is unlikely to be the same as the track recorded by Sonny Stitt in 1965 on his album The Matadores Meet the Bull (Roulette, 1965).

Another detail which can be looked at, is the trumpet mouthpiece (most likely Dizzy's) by Wayne's hand.

Possibly Dizzy's trumpet mouthpiece

Finally, in this Spotify playlist there is some of the music recorded by 52nd Street regulars Art Tatum, Georgie Auld (without Rodney, though), Dizzy and Bird. There are no recordings of Carroll's trio with Lombardi and Wayne, although it is likely that they sounded pretty boppish.

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