Billy Taylor Jazz pianist, Composer, Educator and Broadcaster

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Billy Taylor

Billy Taylor

Dr. Billy Taylor, a Jazz pianist, composer, educator and broadcaster who encompassed that rare combination of creativity, intelligence, vision, commitment and leadership, qualities that made him one of our most cherished national treasures, died in New York on December 28, 2010. He was 89 and lived in Riverdale, New York.

The distinguished ambassador of the jazz community to the world-at-large, Dr. Billy Taylor’s recording career spanned over six decades. He also composed over three hundred and fifty songs, as well as works for theatre, dance and symphony orchestras.

Among his most notable works is “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”, achieving great popularity with Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Nina Simone covered the song in her 1967 album Silk and Soul, and the song continues to be recorded by many artists worldwide, most recently by Levon Helm.

Playing the piano professionally since 1944, 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. Starting in the 1950s, Billy Taylor ked his own Trio, as well as performed with the most influential jazz musicians of the twentieth century.

After many years of recording for leading record labels, in 1989, Taylor started his own “Taylor Made” record label to document his own music, releasing four albums, and in the late 90s, “Soundpost Records,” releasing his two final recordings.

Dr. Taylor was 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.

This is an excerpt of the Bio of Dr. Billy Taylor.
The full Bio is available at the official Billy Taylor website.


What Critics Have Said About Billy Taylor

“Bam! A lesson in cooking lyricism. America’s foremost jazz missionary strikes again…(He excludes a) rollicking pulse and earthy feeling…in musical performance.” – Newsday

“His playing is subtle, virtuosic and at times elegant.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“One of those rare artists who is also a scholar of his art.” – Los Angeles Daily News

“Taylor’s melodic bebop provides awe and entertainment in equal measures.” – The New Yorker

“One of Jazz’s premiere pianists, educators and public figures.” – JazzTimes

“Taylor is an engaging and stylish player, an easy-going crowd pleaser.” – Village Voice

“The venerable pianist is as elegant a stylist as they come.” – The New Yorker

“He articulates (Jazz) history with candor and verve. He deserves thanks, as well as applause. Billy Taylor is the model Jazz polymath.” – Piano & Keyboard

“Taylor’s playing is…a cheerful stewpot of overstuffed arpeggios, cascading glissandos, thickly rhythmic bass patterns and frantic be-bop runs.” – The New York Post

“The most exciting pianist in the jazz world today and its most articulate spokesman.” – Vogue

“The music and mind of Billy Taylor projects a maturity and wealth of ideas. To communicate with Taylor is to go beyond the limits that confine jazz and enter a world of history, mystery and sound.”- Down Beat

“Taylor’s chops are dazzling…” – Jazz & Blues Report

“Billy Taylor’s always been one of the great pianists of the world.” – Jimmy Owens

“Billy Taylor is, indeed, the jazz worlds urban griot, its historian, master musician, educator, story teller, sage and evangelical bearer of the good news alive and well in the music.” – Hartford Courant