Carol Whitney Britto

Obituary
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  • "What an incomparable stylist ! Found Carol while searching..."
    - jb
  • "I attended Holy Name High School with Carol in the 1950's..."
  • "My mother was so very talented I am fortunate to have such...."
    - Jeff Britto
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    - Billy Marcus
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    - Rick Wilkins
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1935 - 2012
Carol Whitney Britto, virtuoso jazz pianist, died March 16, 2012 in New York City. Born in Cleveland, OH in 1935, she is survived by her children Jeff Britto, Karen Carter, and Eric Britto, her sister Jeanne Casey (Larry), her brother Mike Whitney (Rosemary), grandchildren, and loving nieces, nephews and friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, well-known bass player Bill Britto, and by her sisters Marilyn Whitney and Ilene McCarthy (Larry).

Music was Carol's life. She couldn't remember ever not playing the piano. School concerts led to a scholarship to the Cleveland Institute of Music. Clevelanders may remember her playing at the Purple Tree Lounge in the Manger Hotel. From there she began to make a name for herself in New York and in Toronto, where she studied with the incomparable Oscar Peterson. "Oscar taught me how to be a take-charge pianist," she said. Her forceful energetic technique was often compared to his. With her Trio she was the long-time favorite at the Lyte's jazz room in Toronto's Royal York Hotel. She was organist for the Toronto Blue Jays. She played at colleges and jazz festivals throughout North America. She was chosen to be an exclusive Baldwin Piano artist.

Carol was famous in her own right, both solo and as leader of her Carol Britto Trio, but perhaps best known as an accompanist par excellence. During her career she accompanied most of the legendary names in jazz, including Chet Baker, Benny Carter, Helen Humes, Joe Williams, Major Holley, Zoot Sims, Phoebe Snow, Joe Venuti, Doc Cheatham, Marvin Stamm, Roy Eldridge, Flip Phillips, Bobby Rosengarden, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Gary Mazzaroppi, Milt Jackson, Lance Hayward, Tootsie Bean, and Michael Moore. She played with Percy Faith and his Orchestra. She toured with the Tommy Dorsey Band.

Trumpet player Marvin Stamm said of her, "If a visiting jazzman wants a powerful yet sensitive musical companion at the piano, nobody in the business can equal her." Tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis called her "Lady Britto, the Countess Basie of the piano." The great jazz violinist Joe Venuti called her simply, "Mother Jazz."

In New York Carol played all the major clubs - Knickerbocker, Fortune Garden Pavilion, Village Corner, Birdland, Café Gianluca, J's, Zinno, Carnegie Tavern, Hanratty's, the Rainbow Room. Long time New York Times jazz critic John S. Wilson wrote of her, "Carol Britto has a strong, forthright approach . . . that gives her showier pieces a sense of positive mobility and turns her faster selections into potential juggernauts."

Britto's albums won her a wider audience and acclaim - "Alone Together" with Flip Phillips and Michael Moore, and "Inner Voices" with Michael Moore, both on the Town Crier label.

Carol had many interests. She was a gourmet chef who loved cooking for friends. She was an avid reader. She was expert at working crossword puzzles. But it was to her music that she gave her heart and soul.

Carol Britto's daughter Karen plans a memorial website at CarolBritto.com.
Published on NYTimes.com from Apr. 3 to Apr. 4, 2012
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