Billy Taylor
National Visionary

Born July 24, 1921 in Greenville, North Carolina

Died December 28, 2010 in Brooklyn, New York

Jazz musician and educator

Billy Taylor has been playing extraordinary jazz for over 50 years. His remarkable talents as a musician are matched by his vigorous dedication to nurturing jazz and creating new forums and opportunities for the artists who perform it. In addition to touring, composing, and recording such Grammy-nominated works as “Homage” (featuring the Turtle Island Quartet), he has conducted master classes, workshops, and lecture demonstrations for all ages. In 1992 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Taylor was born on July 24, 1921 in Greenville, North Carolina. Shortly thereafter his family moved to Washington, D.C., where Taylor made his first professional appearance at the age of 13. His love for performing jazz took him to New York City in 1942, where he began his professional career playing with tenor saxophonist Ben Webster’s quartet. He immersed himself in the jazz scene over the next few years, playing with many jazz greats of the day, such as Slam Stewart, Eddie South, Stuff Smith, Coleman Hawkins, Jo Jones, and Roy Eldridge.

During the 1950s, Taylor made some recordings with his own trio, and started writing about jazz and giving lectures and clinics to music teachers interested in teaching jazz. Distressed with the serious lack of funding for the arts and humanities, he began to focus on radio and television in order to gain better exposure for jazz. In 1958, he was named musical director of the first television series ever produced about jazz, “The Subject is Jazz.” He again served as musical director for the popular television show, The David Frost Show during the 1970s, playing an hour-long jazz concert every night for the studio audience.

It was about this time that Taylor was offered an opportunity to enroll in the doctoral program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, affording him time to organize his teaching materials so that they might be more effectively used by others. After earning a combined master’s and doctorate degrees in music education in 1975, he returned to writing music, and was tapped by Charles Kuralt to become arts correspondent for the popular television show, “CBS Sunday Morning.”

During the ‘90s, Taylor was named Artistic Advisor for Jazz to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Since 1994, under the umbrella of “Jazz at the Kennedy Center,” Taylor has developed one acclaimed concert series after another, including the Art Tatum Pianaroma and the Louis Armstrong Legacy series.

Today, Taylor continues to perform and teach, sharing with younger generations the history of jazz. As an active observer and recorder of the history of jazz for over nearly eight decades, he is passionate about the need to educate young people about America’s original musical form.

Taylor died of a heart attack at his home in Brooklyn, New York on December 28, 2010



Billy Taylor's Wikipedia Page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/taylorbilly