Billy Taylor encompasses that rare combination of creativity, intelligence, vision, commitment and leadership, qualities that make him one of our most cherished national treasures. The distinguished ambassador of the jazz community to the world-at-large, Dr. Billy Taylor's recording career spans nearly six decades. Playing the piano professionally since , he got his start with Ben Webster's Quartet on New York's famed 52nd Street. He then served as the house pianist at Birdland, the legendary jazz club where he performed with such celebrated masters as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Since the s, Billy Taylor has been leading his own Trio, as well as performing with the most influential jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Taylor has not only been an influential musician, but a highly regarded teacher as well, receiving his Masters and Doctorate in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and serving as a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University. Billy Taylor is one of only three jazz musicians appointed to the National Council of the Arts, and also serves as the Artistic Advisor for Jazz to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he has developed one acclaimed concert series after another including the Louis Armstrong Legacy series, and the annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. With over twenty three honorary doctoral degrees, Dr. Now in his eighties, and officially retired from active touring and recording, he remains active with his educational activities and a full schedule of speaking engagements and appearances on radio and television.
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Billy Taylor July 24, — December 28, was an American jazz pianist, composer, broadcaster and educator. He was the Robert L. A jazz activist, Taylor sat on the Honorary Founders Board of The Jazz Foundation of America , an organisation he started in , with Ann Ruckert, Herb Storfer and Phoebe Jacobs, to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians, later including musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina. Taylor was also a jazz educator, who lectured in colleges, served on panels and travelled worldwide as a jazz ambassador. Critic Leonard Feather once said, "It is almost indisputable that Dr. Billy Taylor is the world's foremost spokesman for jazz.
Although well respected for his tasteful, non-intrusive accompaniment as a sideman, Billy Taylor was known for his championing of jazz music, especially through his various broadcasting and educational ventures. His adroit abilities enabled him to freely cross over from swing to the then-burgeoning modern jazz called bebop. In the s, he served as the ideal sideman, finding work with Roy Eldridge , Oscar Pettiford, and Lee Konitz while employed as house pianist at Birdland in Beginning in he became a bandleader, primarily heading trios with bass and drums. From he was house bandleader for the David Frost television show, and in the s also served as host-director of the NPR syndicated Jazz Alive radio series. Since , Taylor has profiled some of the biggest names in jazz as an interviewer and reporter for CBS television's Sunday Morning program. As a jazz educator, Taylor's experience was vast, starting with authoring a series of beginning piano primers. He was a founder of New York's successful Jazzmobile community performance and school-without-walls, which debuted in Post College. His experience at the University of Massachusetts led to a lead faculty position at the university's annual summer intensive program, Jazz in July.
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