Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snowing in New York

Looking north along Riverside Drive. 10:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Snowing in New York as I write this at 10:30 Monday night. It had been snowing since early afternoon, first lightly and then heavily by three-thirty/four. Steps were taken by city and state: public transportation was stopped after a mid-evening hour and private cars were banned from the roads after 11 p.m. This was an extremely rare occurrence. The supermarkets were jammed with people picking up supplies in case they’re stranded for days (?!). Although in reality many New Yorkers don’t keep much food supplies in their apartments because they very often eat out or order in.

The snow tapered off by late afternoon so that just before dark it stopped, although that was only briefly. Nevertheless, it is the story of the day (or days) and funny how the weather totally distracts us, and the calls for blizzards or like hazards, and temporary rules about traveling and the stopping of the subways and the buses only add to the distraction. 
The late morning flakes resembled miniature Styrofoam balls.
Getting the babies back home, corner of 79th Street and York Avenue, 3:30 p.m.
The cab ride down East 79th Street to East End Avenue.
East End Avenue at 83rd Street where the school buses are waiting for the Brearley School girls. 3:35 p.m.
As a person who grew up in the Northeast, living in Massachusetts and Maine (in college) and later in New York, the snowfall so far on these two days has been rather mild. It’s good weather for staying inside where it’s warm but it’s not exactly some kind of emergency. However, most public and private events that were planned were canceled. Even the holdouts (such as a private dinner party that I had been invited to) caved with yesterday’s strong midafternoon snowfall. That cancellation was mainly because the car services would not be available to guests.
The steets at 10:15 PM.
The streets at 10:15 PM.
Nevertheless, early afternoon, I went to a luncheon that Lisa Schiff gave for our friend Barbara Carroll, the jazz pianist who turned 90 on Sunday. It was a complete surprise. Barbara thought she was having lunch with just Lisa, and because of the weather she wasn’t certain she’d be able to make it. There were eight of us including the birthday girl and her husband Mark Stroock and Stephen Holden, the music, theatre and film critic for the New York Times, Ann Dewey, Lisa Schiff’s sister; Marti Stevens, Joy Ingham, and Deborah Grace Winer, the artistic director of the 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics and Lyricists program. The last to arrive was Barbara’s husband because he went along with the “story” that Barbara was having a lunch with just Lisa, so he had to wait until she left the apartment before he could leave.
Barbara at Swifty's after being presented her birthday cake, with Stephen Holden looking on.
Barbara and I have been friends for thirty years. We met through another Lisa – Lisa Drew – who was the editor on the book I wrote for Debbie Reynolds. Lisa had come out to California to work on editing the manuscript with me and Debbie. Barbara, coincidentally at the time was playing a gig at the old Westwood Marquis Hotel and Lisa and I went to see her.

She was a girl from Worcester, Massachusetts, Barbara Carole Coopersmith who first came to New York in the late 1940s to pursue a career as a jazz pianist.  She’d begun her classical piano training at age eight but by the time she was in high school she wanted to be a jazz pianist. She attended the New England Conservatory.  As a kid her idols were Nat Cole, Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. By the time she was fifteen she  formed her own trio which played at school dances, an enterprise that gave her enough money to study at the Conservatory.
Making a wish.
When she was first sent out for auditions, her agent called her Bobby Carroll (or Bobbi) because most club owners wouldn’t consider a woman jazz pianist for a job. In 1948 she formed a trio with with Chuck Wayne on guitar, Clyde Lombardi on bass. Later Charlie Byrd replaced Wayne. An agent got her booked into the Downbeat Club where the major attraction was Dizzie Gillespie. She got her first big break in a Rodgers and Hammerstein show called “Me and Juliet” in 1953, about a backstage romance in a long-running musical. Barbara played Chris, the rehearsal pianist, with her trio, in the first act with a song called “That’s The Way It Happens” sung by the show’s star Isabel Bigley. The show was not considered a hit although it ran for a year. Among its songs was “No Other Love” which became a standard.

In all the years following, Barbara with trio (and without) has performed regularly all over the country and very regularly in New York. She was playing at George Ault’s Tin Pan Alley, a musicians’ hangout where occasionally a singer from Astoria would come in and sing. His name was Tony Bennett and a lifelong friendship was formed with Barbara.
Barbara, thanking her friend Lisa for this wonderful surprise on a stormy winter's day in New York.
Barbara has many lifelong friendships in the world of jazz and popular music, as well as outside it. She has the gift of friendship. A quiet, gentle personality away from the keyboard, she is sensitive, caring and a devoted friend. She has a quiet manner, even in her walk, a kind of elegant humility that envelopes an amazing and constantly disarming talent. The years have only made it more compelling. You can see still see her perform Saturdays at Birdland. For a taste at Barbara’s style (and talent), visit her website:  http://www.barbaracarrolljazz.com.
As the blizzard was closing in on New York City, Ned Brown, who is down in Charleston, SC, sent us this at 6 p.m. while walking Ollie and Spicey. Thanks Ned.

Contact DPC here.