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The Billy Taylor Jazz Festival

Billy Taylor

The Billy Taylor Jazz Festival began humbly. High school and middle school jazz bands came to campus to perform at critiquing sessions, then to enjoy a performance by the East Carolina University Jazz Ensemble A and a guest artist.

The festival quickly outgrew A. J. Fletcher Recital Hall. In 2003, Billy lent his name to the festival, and the Greenville Convention Center was retained to contain the audience who came for a gala evening, witness Mayor Don Parrott offer Taylor the Keys to the City, and hear him proclaim the day “Dr. Billy Taylor Day” on behalf of the City Council.

The festival offers three public concerts, a free jam session, critiquing sessions for eight or more high school and middle school jazz bands, and opportunities for Jazz Friends to mingle and celebrate.

This year's edition takes place April 24-26 and features Billy compositions and arrangements, with special Geri Allen, and Dr. Taylor, featuring the ECU Jazz Ensemble A, ECU Jazz Bones, and the ECU Jazz Faculty.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, April 24, 8:00 PM
Concert: ECU Jazz 'Bones in Concert
Location: Glennon’s Club at the Greenville Hilton

Thursday, April 24, 10:00 PM
Event: International Association of Jazz Educators Jam Session
with ECU Jazz Combos
Location: Glennon’s Club at the Greenville Hilton

Friday, April 25
10:00 AM:
Jazz Improv Clinic with Geri Allen and ECU's Contemporary Jazz Ensemble (Ernest Turner, director)
Location: ECU School of Music, A.J. Fletcher Music Center, Room 105

11:30 AM:
Informal Jazz Discussion with Dr. Billy Taylor
Location: ECU School of Music, A.J. Fletcher Music Center, Room 105

3:00 PM:
Sound check/rehearsal: Jazz Ensemble A & Geri Allen
Location: Greenville Convention Center

8:00 PM: Concert: ECU Jazz Ensemble A with Geri Allen, and ECU Jazz Faculty
Location: Greenville Convention Center

Saturday, April 26
Performance and critiques offered to middle and high school jazz ensembles from North Carolina and Virginia.

Saturday, April 26, 8:00 PM
Gala concert: featuring Geri Allen accompanied by the ECU Jazz Faculty
Location: Greenville Convention Center

For more info and to purchase tickets, please visit the Festival Website.

Induction of Billy Taylor to the NAJREI Hall of Fame

On April 19th, the NAJRI launched its Jazz Hall of Fame with the initial induction of jazz giants who are natives of North Carolina: Max Roach, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Percy Heath, Dr. Billy Taylor, Lou Donaldson, Nina Simone and Tal Farlow. In addition, Jimmy Heath, Albert (Tootie) Heath and the Honorable Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), was also inducted in recognition of their contributions to jazz.

The Real Ambassadors: Dave Brubeck & Dr. Billy Taylor

On April 12th, to Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month and the 50th anniversary of Dave Brubeck's famous 1958 State Department tour with this special conversation featuring two jazz icons who have toured the world. From Europe to the Middle East to Latin America, they have fused music and cultural diplomacy during their more than 100 years (combined) of touring. Join Brubeck, Taylor, and other special guests for a candid discussion of what it meant to take the music and culture of America to the world at the times when it was needed most..

Billy Taylor Trio at the 28th Annual Sarasota Jazz Festival

Billy's Trio played at the Sarasotra Jazz Festival on March 7th. The next day, Billy gave a Master Class. And that night, sat in with Branford Marsalis. The saxman's group was delayed so an improptu duo between Billy and Branford proved to be a festival highlight.

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Earl May

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy's friend and Trio bassist Earl May passed away on January 4.

Earl May began his career in 1949 in New York City, and honed his craft in places like Minton''s Playhouse with musicians such as Lester Young, Mercer Ellington.

Earl joined the Billy Taylor Trio, appearing regularly in such clubs as the Hickory House, Birdland and the Downbeat Club. It was at Billy's suggestion that Earl began studying with Charles Mingus, eventually becoming his protege.

During this period Earl also worked with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and recorded the classic "Lush Life" with John Coltrane.

Earl left the Billy Taylor Trio in 1959 to form his own group and act as musical director and arranger for Gloria Lynne. During the mid-sixties Earl took up the electric bass and led a quartet at The New York Playboy Club. The Earl May Quartet rapidly became the epitome of great music in the New York club scene. Over the years Earl has performed or recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Foster, Cab Calloway, Tommy Flanagan, Linda Hopkins, Doc Cheatham, Charles Brown, John Hendricks, Marlena Shaw, Ruth Brown, Winard Harper and Phyllis Hyman to name a few. He is currently featured with the Barry Harris Trio. Earl has many fans in the New York swing scene, having played at swing dances multiple times in Junior Mance''s Trio, Benny Powell''s "The Gift of Love" Quintet, and with his own Quintet.

 

 

Since its August release, this CD has been met with enthuastic reviews, and considerable airplay:

from jazzreview.com

Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan, Live at MCG documents a series of concerts in late 1993 at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (MCG) in Pittsburgh, PA. On the same weekend MCG also taped the pilot program for Taylor's long-running NPR jazz series.

These two jazz masters - Mulligan, with his easy flow of ideas and light touch on the bari, and Taylor, a sensitive accompanist and innovative soloist - were old friends which added to the spirit and interplay of this live session. Except for two originals, the tunes are standards. In my opinion, this allows the listener to gain a greater appreciation of improvisation levels. There's a lot going on here and it helps to know the starting point.

The swingers include "Indiana" as well as "Just You Just Me," where Taylor displays his bop credentials, and "Stompin' at the Savoy." It's refreshing to hear "Savoy" outside the structured setting of the big band as Mulligan eases into a stream of variations, built upon by Taylor, on the way to a high-energy conclusion.

The ballads are beautifully played - "Darn That Dream, "Body and Soul," and Duke's inspiring "Come Sunday." "Laura" is less languid than usual and Mulligan's alternate melody becomes a bass camp for exploration. "All the Things You Are" is particularly interesting. Bach would have loved the chart which opens as a fugue and melds with swing. And if you want to hear what a pianist can really do with a left hand, check out Taylor's powerful closing solo.

The two masters each contribute an original. Taylor's "Capricious" is a high-spirited calypso. The familiar Mulligan composition, "Line for Lyons" provides the other two players, bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Carl Allen, their opportunity to shine - and shine they do.

This CD is a treasure. I don't know why MCG took so long to release it but I'm sure glad they did.

from bbc.com

Pianist Billy Taylor, now in his 87th year, is one of the US’s top jazz celebrities. He played with greats, including Ben Webster, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, has hosted numerous radio shows and is an academic pioneering jazz studies. His style is strictly mainstream, lyrical bebop. The sparring partner on this live 1993 set at the Manchester Craftsman’s Union (MCG), Pittsburgh, is Gerry Mulligan, one of jazz’s great baritone sax players. The duo, with tight, but unobtrusive, rhythmic backing from Chip Jackson on bass and Carl Allen, drums, tread a predictable, but beautifully toned path covering evergreen classics and a few of their own.

Mulligan’s “Line for Lyons” has an infective baritone melody, intersected by Taylor’s jaunty patterns whereas on “All The Things You Are” a deep harmonic interplay reflects the intuitive relationship the two have developed over the years. The final number, the Taylor composition “Capricious”, is exactly that, a witty baritone melody spinning along, while the piano accents mischievously.

Live At MCG is evergreen, engagingly warm but rather safe, quartet jazz where two pros are exploring the oeuvre with humour and love. It is a classic of its type, certainly, but after a few hearings it has a tendency to wash over somewhat. Frankly, it is hard for a baritone sax tone to sustain engagingly over a full set. That said, it is clear what a master of the craft Gerry Mulligan is.

For those who like jazz old school lyrical, this could be your bag, but if you are after something with more edge and surprise, then it really does not hold the ticket.

Charles De Ledesma

For more info, or to purchase, please click here.

Dr. Billy Taylor
Billy at the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA on 10/13/06.
Photo Credit: Lee Evertt/Fine Line

Jazz in July

 

 

 

 

 

From this year's Jazz in July, Billy's annual program at UMass. Left to right, Fred Tills, unk, Gerri Allen, Chip Jackson, Dr. Willie Hill, Sheila Jordan, Billy, unk, Steve Johns.
Photo Credit: Ed Cohen Photo

Billy Kicked Off Enduring Masters Series at Ithaca College

Billy Taylor—named by Vogue as “the most exciting pianist in the jazz world today and its most articulate spokesman”— inaugurated Ithaca College’s Enduring Masters series with a free appearance on Saturday, Sept. 15 that featured a performance and a lecture,

 

MCG Jazz releases 1993 live recording featuring Billy Taylor and Gerry Mulligan

On August 28, MCG Jazz released Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan: Live at MCG, an album recorded at Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in 1993. The album features Taylor (pictured) and Mulligan playing a set of standards (plus Taylor’s “Capricious” and Mulligan’s “Line for Lyons”) in a quartet with bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Carl Allen.

Billy Taylor is renowned for his light, spirited bop piano work and for being one of jazz’s most dedicated advocates and ambassadors. Mulligan, who died in 1996, is largely considered jazz’s greatest baritone saxophonist.

Bill Strickland established the Manchester Craftmen’s Guild in 1968 as an art program for inner-city youths. The MCG later received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, allowing the organization to expand its facilities, including the addition of a 350-seat concert hall. Many artists have performed to packed houses and given MCG the rights to the recordings for public release. A portion of the proceeds from MCG Jazz recordings fund future programs and concerts.

For more info, or to purchase, please click here.

Download a track from Jessica Williams' solo piano tribute to Billy, recently premiered by Jessica at the Kennedy Center as part of Billy's annual Mary Lou Williams' Women in Jazz Festival. "The sound on the cd is pure, crystal-clear and quite often breathtaking. Breathtaking also describes Williams' performance, which she says is some of her favorite work... of the recital, she says, 'I think it’s a fitting tribute to a man for all seasons, a man with a heart of gold and a soul as timeless as this Music called jazz.' It’s also a heartwarming love letter from one remarkable musician to another, and a splendid soliloquy to boot. Billy must be highly pleased with the outcome, and so should you." - Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

In July: Billy's Trio (Chip Jackson and Winard Harper) played at William Paterson College as part of their Summer Jazz Series...The 92nd Street Y's Jazz In July Piano Jam, featured Billy, along with Bill Charlap, Barbara Carroll and Eric Reed...Billy's annual Jazz in July Summer Music Program was presented from July 9 - 20th at the University of Massachusetts.

YouTube Channel

Billy has a YouTube Channel. Please visit the channel and leave your comments.

Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame

Billy was honored by the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, receiving the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony and celebration in Tulsa.

Oscar Peterson Tribute

Billy performed at the June Carnegie Hall Tribute to Oscar Peterson. “It really is nice to be able to pay tribute to someone who's alive, and Oscar is very much alive,” the 85-year-old pianist Billy Taylor told the audience. “He couldn't be here with us tonight but he's here and his music is still happening.”

Jazz in DC - Listen to Billy and Frank Wess Talk about Their Early Days in Washington

From Fairmont Street to U Street, from the Howard Theater to the Bohemian Caverns, take a tour through jazz history with Billy Taylor and Frank Wess, who lead listeners through their hometow's music scene in this 6-part audio series.

Billy Taylor grew up in DC and went to college in Virginia. Sax and flute master Frank Wess spent his teen years in the District and graduated from Howard University. Through memories and music, they describe growing up in the nation's capital, their musical coming of age, and the people and places that are indelibly linked to the world of Jazz.

Listen

Remember When: Jazzmobile

These photos were taken in 1977 at a concert in Manhattan Square Park, Rochester, NY

Jazzmobile

Billy Taylor

Jimmy Owens and Frank Wess
Frank Wess contemplates while Jimmy Owens solos.

Freddie Waits
Freddie Waits passed away much much too young.

Jazzmobile

Frank Wess
Frank Wess and Billy Taylor have been friends since high school.

The Last Encore - Washingtin Post Magazine Feature about Billy, Read

Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival: A Beat Not To Be Missed. Read

Billy Taylor and Jane Ira Bloom

 

Billy and Jane Ira Bloom
2007 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival
Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

The Vy Higginsen Mama Foundation for the Arts, Inc. Legends/Masters/Scholars/Series presented a 2 hour symposium featuring Billy Taylor on June 1st at the The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Billy's Honorary Docorate from Wayne State

DETROIT – More than 13,000 people – new graduates, guests, faculty and administrators – gathered at Wayne State University’s Tom Adams Field at the Matthaei Athletics Complex on Saturday, May 5, for the annual commencement ceremonies.

Receiving honorary doctoral degrees were businessman/philanthropist Marvin I. Danto of Bloomfield Hills and musician/composer Billy Taylor of New York City.

Billy Taylor received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for exceptional contributions to the nation’s musical heritage. An acclaimed musician, composer, teacher and author, he has penned more than 300 songs and tours internationally. Since early in his career, when he was program director for a New York radio station, he has brought jazz to a national audience. He was musical director of the first TV series ever produced about jazz, “The Subject is Jazz,” in 1958. He also served as musical director for “The David Frost Show” in the 1970s and has collaborated on projects with the Public Broadcasting System and other networks. For 25 years, he was arts correspondent for CBS-TV’s “Sunday Morning” show.

Taylor has received numerous honors and accolades, including the National Medal of Arts, two Peabody Awards for excellence in journalism, an Emmy, a Grammy, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship Award and induction into the International Association for Jazz Education Hall of Fame. In 1992, the Schombury Center for Research in Black Culture named him as one of “100 Black New Yorkers of
the 20th Century.

Jazz at Lincoln Center:  Jazz Talk – An Evening with Dr. Billy Taylor

In February , Dr. Lewis Porter hosted a very special interview and performance with Dr. Billy Taylor at the Irene Diamond Education Center.  Jazz Talk features noted jazz musicians, historians, and writers sharing research and insight into jazz history and contemporary issues and this edition focused Billy’s remarkable career as pianist, composer, broadcaster and educator. 

Lewis Porter reports that “I produced the evening so it was like an episode of the old television show, ‘This is Your Life.’  I presented Billy with rare audio and video for his comments.  We discussed and sample his early recordings and associations with Eddie South, Bird, and Louis Armstrong (including rare audio of Billy speaking a Louis’s funeral.  We also talked about his compositions for orchestra.  All along the way, Billy demonstrated with musical examples on the piano.

Living Jazz Legend Award

Billy Taylor

Thirty-five of the world's most famous Jazz musicians were honored on March 3rd at the start of an eight-day festival at the Kennedy Center (March 3-10) devoted to the eroding fraternity of living jazz luminaries.

"It is important to honor musicians while they are alive," Billy explains. "So often, jazz luminaries are recognized for their achievements only after their death. With ‘Jazz in Our Time,’ we are reflecting on the massive impact these jazz artists have had on the development and continuation of jazz around the world.”

The festival, called "Jazz in Our Time," debuted with an all-star concert hosted by James Earl Jones that toasted the recipients of its "Living Jazz Legends Award." The concert was part of the center's 6-year-old Catherine Reynolds Foundation Series for Artistic Excellence.

Four years in the making, the affair was conceived by pianist Billy Taylor, the center's artistic adviser for jazz, and Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser, to showcase jazz greats, including artists who participated in its golden era.

Among featured artists for the opening concert were Dave Brubeck, Regina Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Jon Faddis, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath, John Hendricks, Michel Legrand, Wynton Marsalis, James Moody, T.S. Monk and Phil Woods. Singer Nancy Wilson was backed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Other groups included the Clayton Brothers Quintet, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet and the Billy Taylor Trio, which closed the show with Billy's signature number, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.

Billy Taylor
Billy is joined by the Morgan State Choir University Choir, Regina Carter, Nancy Wilson, Jon Faddis and John Clayton and the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchesra.

Billy Taylor

Billy reports that the evening was a once-in-a-lifetime concert: "It was so beautiful to have so many of my friends, people I know and relate to, in one place at one time."

On Sunday, March 4th, Billy joined Marian McPartland for an 89th Birthday Tribute, taping a future broadcast of Marian's popular Piano Jazz program for NPR airing later thi year.

Martin Luther King

 

Billy celebrated Black History Month by presenting his Peaceful Warrior Suite, for listening here on the web. Billy composed, orchestrated and arranged this suite for symphony orchestra, mixed chorus and Jazz trio.

This performance features Billy's Trio (with Chip Jackson on bass and Steve Johns on drums), the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the 130 voices of the compbed Spellman and Morehouse College Glee Clubs and the Atlanta Center Community Chorus, conducted by Andre Rafael Smith.

 

Billy Taylor Piano Styles

 

Billy Taylor Piano Styles

Hal Leonard Publishing has released Billy Taylor Piano Styles, a reissue of three books Billy did in the late 40s.  This edition brings together Billy Taylor's diverse piano-playing styles to life via technical analyses of be-bop, boogie-woogie, Dixieland and mambo, as well as several complete Billy Taylor solos.
Buy

 

 

 

Juilliard Jazz’s Jazz Legends Tribute

Juilliard Jazz’s presented a "Tribute to Jazz Legends," on February 27, 2007 featuring James Moody, Dr. Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, and Joe Wilder, all of whom were in attendance. Each performed with the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra or with Juilliard Jazz student musicians in ensemble.  Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi presented these five Jazz Legends with the Juilliard President’s Medal in recognition of their contributions to jazz. The President’s Medal was created during Juilliard’s centennial season and was designed by longtime friend of the School, artist Milton Glaser.

Billy's IAJE booth at this year's festitivies, was the subject of considerable attention. In addition to meeting Dr. Taylor, booth visitors watched his videos live on YouTube, and listened, via an iPod with speakers, to unrelased recordings.

Frank Foster

 

On December 10th, Billy played at the Waterside Jazz Legends Gala in Chesapke, , Virginia, honoring his longtime friend, Dr. Frank Foster. Billy was joined by Christian McBride on bass, and Winard Harper on drums.

Frank Foster, an NEA Jazz Master and two time Grammy winner, was celebrating more than fifty five years in music. A member of the Count Basie Orchestra, from 1953 to 1964, Frank contributed extensively to the band's repertoire through his many compositions and arrangements. He has since worked and arranged for all the major players in Jazz, as well leading his own groups, including his Loud Minority.

Dr. Frank Foster resides in Chesapeake, VA with his wife of more than 35 years, Cecilia.

 

 

On December 1st, Billy participated at a special fund raising event at The Artists Collective, in Hartford, CT. This remarkable facility, which gives young people in Hartford the opportunity to experience the arts, was founded by the late Jackie McLean and his wife Dollie.

On December 2nd, Billy attended this year's edition of the Kennedy Center Awards, honoring Smokey Robinson, Zubin Metha, Stephen Spielberg, Dolly Parton and Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Six Jazz legends came together at Flushing Town Hall Friday, November 17th. The world-renowned musicians included NEA (National Endowment for Arts Jazz Master Award) Jazz Masters: Jimmy Heath on saxophone, Clark Terry on trumpet and Dr. Billy Taylor on piano with famed musicians Tootie Heath on drums, Benny Powell on trombone, and Earl May on bass.

Billy was enthusiastic about the event because "it realy turned out very nicely. It was so nice to be with everyone. Of course Clark tore it up. I also got to play, His Name Was Martin.

"Tootie told Earl and I that this was the first time he got to play with us, after having heard us so many times. Actually, Tootie played on my recording Four Flutes."

Pittsburgh-based pianist and presenter Walt Harper has passed away.

Upon completion of college, he formed the Walt Harper Quintet, later to become Walt Harper and All That Jazz. Walt owned and operated two of the most successful nightclubs in the country, Attic in Market Square and Harper's, where some of the most prestigious names in jazz, including Billy Taylor, graced the stage. He also recorded nine albums and received numerous awards. His jazz ballet Metamorphis premiered by the Dance Alloy before three sold out audiences.

Billy reports that "I worked for Walter a number of times in Pittsburgh at his club, the Attic, and it was always great fun. He will be sorely missed."

Billy Taylor and Sean Jones

 

 

Billy celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Lively Arts Festival at the University of Massachetts with a guest lecture. Dr. Taylor also presented trumpeter Sean Jones as the Guest Lecturer/Performer.The Lively Arts is an interdisciplinary, general education class. It encompasses all of the performing arts (music, both classical and jazz, dance, theater) and also visual arts and photography. In addition to the Lively Arts class, the UMass Fine Arts Center has a Billy Taylor Jazz Residency, the purpose is to present up and coming jazz artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy with Sean Jones, Willie Hill and Fred Tillis

 

Photos: Lori Tuominen

 

 

Billy co-founded the series, as a vehicle to introduce the arts, and Jazz, to a new audience. "It works very well," he reports. "Over the years, many times, people have come up to me and said that they first heard Jazz when I played at the LIvely Arts, and they've been listening to the music ever since."

Cobi Narita

 

Billy sends his best wishes to Cobi Narita, who has been ill. Cobi has been an unselfish Jazz support and activist for many years with her Universal Jazz Coailition. "This remarkable woman," Billy believes, has always shunned the spotlight and might it possible for many many musicans

Frank Wess

 

 

Billy congratulates his close friend, saxophonist Frank Wess, who has been named as an NEA Jazz Master. "I'm delighted, Dr. Taylor reports. "This is an honor that should have happened many years ago!"

 

Recent Gigs

Billy and his Trio played at the PIttsfield Jazz Festival.

Billy was honored at the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C.and presented with the Festial's LIfetime Achievement Award.

Manchester Craftmen's Guild presented Dr. Billy Taylor: Special Memories from a Wonderful Life in Jazz.

Bob Karlovits in the Pittsburgh Tribute Review wrote that: "...Taylor opened the evening with a solo version of "All the Things You Are." It began with a left-handed exploration of the song, raising immediate curiosity about his right side, hit four years ago by a stroke.

But that was just the way the arrangement is written, and soon the right hand jumped in to offer a jazz-fugue-like look at this classic piece. Taylor might not be as facile as he once was, but he still is a wonderful improvisor with a keen sense of melodic statements and variations.

He was surrounded by talents of the same level, ranging from the saxophone of Frank Wess, a Count Basie alumnus, to the trumpet of Ingrid Jensen, an up-and-coming star.

She was here last season with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, and it was good to see her in a small setting.

Wess got his biggest spots on a lovely rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" while she offered great flugelhorn work on a piece simply called "Solo."

Guitarist Russell Malone got his moment to stand out on "Theodora," a Taylor original. Bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper, the steady member of the trio, were not pushed aside by the guests.

Jackson offered striking rhythms in a solo on "Watch and Listen," and Harper was outstanding in "Titoro," a piece Taylor said he wrote as a showcase for drums.

The show wasn't an earth-shattering display of the cutting edge of jazz, but it was an example of the elegant music Taylor has been producing for more than 50 years.

Billy and his Trio played a concert at the Kennedy Center. Mike Joyce, in the Washington Post wrote:

Billy Taylor And Friends In Fine Form

NEA Jazz Master Billy Taylor interrupted his retirement from public performance at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club on Friday night with a cozy concert that featured two of the things he loves most: playing tribute to some of the great artists he's known over the years, and showcasing budding jazz talent.

Though Taylor, 85, briefly alluded to the minor stroke he suffered in 2001 that affected his right hand, he was in fine form on the piano, collaborating with bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper. A good thing, too, since the trio has always favored a demanding level of interplay, laced with rhythmic fits and starts. The program included salutes to bassist Oscar Pettiford (single-handedly evoked by Taylor's southpaw at one point) and Afro-Cuban jazz legend Machito, whose influence was felt during the trio's splashing and vamping arrangement of "Morning." A strong spiritual current also ran through the performance, thanks to Taylor's gospel-charged "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and his elegiac ballad "In Loving Memory." Alert and inventive, Jackson and Harper enlivened several arrangements with delightfully colorful solos.

Later Taylor introduced a protege, 17-year-old pianist Christian Sands. Besides being preternaturally gifted, as a rendering of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" swiftly demonstrated, Sands is even now capable of playing with veterans such as Jackson and Harper with quick-witted assurance. The concert ended with a fanciful baroque-to-bop trio arrangement of "All the Things You Are," a bright, Taylor-made send-off indeed.

Billy was a judge at the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition at the Kennedy Center, along with Herbie Hancock, Randy Weston, Andrew Hill, Renne Rosnes and Danilo Perez.

Biilly and his long-time friend Frank Wess (they went to the same high school in Washington, D.C.), played a concert at William Patterson College's annual Summer Jazz Week on July 28.

From July 10 - 15, Billy oversaw the 2006 Edition of Jazz in July at the University of Massachusetts. The program was a great success, bringing together such musicians as Geri Allen and John Blake, with their young consitituents.

Billy at the June New York Arts Counsel Awards, with Mid-Atlantic Arts Lisa Frigand .

On June 7th, Billy participated in Celebrating a Musical Legacy, a benefit for Meet the Composer celebrating the achievements of James Jordan. Jon Faddis joined Billy for a a tribute to Mr. Jordan that brought down the house.

The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, presented Billy with an honorary degree on May 13. The highlight was a Choral performance of Billy's immortal "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free."

Download a track from Jessica Williams' solo piano tribute to Billy, recently premiered by Jessica at the Kennedy Center as part of Billy's annual Mary Lou Williams' Women in Jazz Festival. "The sound on the cd is pure, crystal-clear and quite often breathtaking. Breathtaking also describes Williams' performance, which she says is some of her favorite work... of the recital, she says, 'I think it’s a fitting tribute to a man for all seasons, a man with a heart of gold and a soul as timeless as this Music called jazz.' It’s also a heartwarming love letter from one remarkable musician to another, and a splendid soliloquy to boot. Billy must be highly pleased with the outcome, and so should you." - Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

Billy's annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival was presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington May 11-13. In the Washington Post, Mike Joyce wrote:

"If you're going to kick off the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival alone, playing a pair of piano tributes -- one to the event's namesake, the other to founder and guiding light Billy Taylor -- isn't a bad way to go. Of course having Taylor, who recently said he was retiring from public performances, join you for a bluesy coda is probably too much to ask.

Or is it?

A lthough always careful to keep the spotlight on festival headliners, the 85-year-old jazz legend couldn't turn down an invitation to sit beside pianist and composer Jessica Williams when the 11th edition of the festival got underway Thursday night at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

The opportunity came moments after Williams performed several imaginatively harmonized solo piano pieces from a new suite she wrote in Taylor's honor. Among them was "Taylor's Triumph," an apt description of the festival itself. The duo's four-handed finale quickly proved a delight, with Williams and Taylor trading parts (and places on the piano stool). Initially Williams took the high road, favoring treble-register trills and triplets, while Taylor sustained a walking bass line with his left hand.

It's hard to recall the festival opening on a more fitting and crowd-pleasing note."

Click here to read the entire review.

Billy was honored by the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City on May 6, presented with their Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony hosted by Gale Sayers. Singer Myra Taylor (no relation), was also honored as part of an event that culiminated in a performance by Monty Alexander's Trio featuring Billy's drummer, Winard Harper. Click on play to watch a slide show of photos taken at the Award Ceremony. Photos by Susan McSpadden.

 

On May 1. The American Music Center honored Billy with its Letter of Distinction.

On April 22 Billy performed with Jon Faddis' The Chicago Jazz Ensemble, in a concert of his compositions newly arranged for the Jazz big band. Frank Foster also arranged Billy's version of "Take the A Train."

On April 27, Billy will speak at the annual Arthur Asch Foundation dinner, performing "I Remember You.

Billy Taylor at the Princeton Club

Billy did a lecture/demonstration at the Princeton Club in New York on March 9, discussing his remarkable career, and answering questions from the appreciative audience.

Billy was introduced by noted entertainment attorney, Princeton graduate and drummer for the Princeton Jazz Quartet, Alan S. Bergman.

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, assisted by Tatsuya Koeda, he autographed copies of his latest CDs, on Soundpost Records.

 

Ask Dr. Taylor

On February 13, the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts hosted, Ask Dr. Taylor. This lecture/demonstration gave nearly twelve hundred South Florida residents a rare opportunity to experience the wisdom and creativity of Dr. Billy Taylor.

"I really enjoyed this audience," Billy reports, "one that I share with Dick Hyman. Doing these kinds of presentations gives me the chance to introduce Jazz to new listeners. They're very engaged, listening attentively, and asking lots of questions."

Billy will be doing a similiar presentation at the Princeton Club in March.

Listen to Billy's One on One from the IAJE Conference

In the world of jazz, Dr. Billy Taylor has few equals. For over six decades, he has championed America's homegrown art form as a pianist, composer, educator, radio and television broadcaster, and, tireless spokesman and advocate. Although he has retired from active performing, Billy maintains an active schedule as Artistic Director for Jazz at the Kennedy Center, his passion still alive, his piano, still swinging. For this One-On-One, at this year's IAJE Conference in New York in January, he was joined by Bret Primack for a freewheeling discussion on his remarkable career, and his thoughts on the state of jazz today.

Listen/Download MP3: Part 1 | Part 2

To Prez with Love 2006

On Sunday, March 12th, Billy will be participating in the 22nd Annual Lester Young Memorial Celebration at St. Peter's Church, Lexington Avenue at 54th Street in New York. For more information, please call (212) 935-2200.

Billy Receives Chamber Music America's "Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award"

On Sunday, January 15, Billy was honored by Chamber Music America with an Award and Concert. The concert, "A Tribute to Billy Taylor," was held at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church with Ramsey Lewis as host. The concert featured eight of Dr. Taylor's best known compositions, including: CAG, A Bientot, It's A Grand Night For Swinging, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, No Park, Titoro, and the Third Movement from his Suite for Jazz Piano and Orchestra. Performers included pianists Mulgrew Miller and Bily Childs, vocalist Carla Cook, saxman Steve Wilson, Stefan Harris on vibes, Billy's rhythm section, Chip Jackson on bass and Winard Harper on drums, and Billy's long time friend, trumpeter Jimmy Owens.

That night, Billy was presented with the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award in recognition of his passion for the art of jazz and his commitment to educating and inspiring generations of musicians, in a ceremony in the Majestic Ballroom of the Westin New York at Times Square. Speaking in his honor were David N. Baker, Distinguished Professor at the School of Music, Indiana University at Bloomington; and Eugenia Zukerman, flutist and Arts Correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning. A CBS Sunday Morning video tribute to Dr. Taylor was also shown.

Billy was also the cover story of the organization's magazine, Chamber Music. Click here to read.

IAJE – Billy Was Busy!


Billy, Princeton Jazz Quartet drummer Alan Bergman, and James Moody

Photo: Ken Dryden

 

 

This year's annual IAJE conference, held at New York's Hilton Hotel from January 11-15, was an action packed event for Dr. Billy Taylor.

Thursday – 10 AM – Billy's Bounce. The announced moderator for Billy's One on One, A.B. Spellman was a last minute cancellation so Bret Primack, who produces this website, and Billy's Podcast, stepped in at the last moment to interview Billy. The result was an hour of great stories, memories and observations.

Billy's Booth - Billy's booth was the center of considerable activity this year. A new documentary film produced by Bret Primack, Billy Taylor: American Hero, was presented on a large plasma screen television. Many friends and fans stopped by Billy's booth to say hello:


Pianist Denny Zeitlin                                                         Harmonica Master Hendrik Meurkens

 
Flutist Jane Bunnett                                     Pianist and University of Arizona Jazz Program Director Jeff Haskell

 

Leila Primack, Billy and Bret Primack

Photo: Leah Gramatica

 

 

 

 

Billy also demonstrated his new Video Podcasts on a Video iPod in the booth.

Dr. Billy Taylor has joined the iPod revolution. With the release of the Video I-Pod, an exciting new vehicle for the distribution of video content has quickly emerged. Billy Taylor's Jazz Video Podcasts, a series of a monthly programs for iPod, computers and other portable video devices, are now available on Billy's website. These programs are taken from Billy's vast video archives and include performances, documentaries, and educational video.

Billy's video podcasts can be individually downloaded from his website, or users can subscribe so that when new podcasts are posted each month, they will automatically be downloaded to the user's desktop. Visit Billy's new Podcast page for details.

Bret Primack, who produces Billy's website, is coordinating Billy's Video Podcasts. In addition to working with Billy, Bret also produces websites and Podcasts for Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano, David Liebman, and Denny Zeitlin, among many others. In addition to each artist's individual Podcast pages, Bret has launched jazzvideopodcasts.com, a portal that serves as clearing house for the Podcasts.

"There's a scarcity of video I-Pod content right now," Bret reports. "To facilitate the distribution of these Jazz Video Podcasts, I've put together a portal, a central clearing house called Jazz Video Podcasts. On this website, visitors will see a list of all Jazz Video Podcasts currently available. And from the site, they can download the individual Podcasts, subscribe, or go directly to the artist's websites."

Bret believes that "by creating Video Podcasts, we're using transportable digital video media to introduce Jazz to an entirely new audience. There are many people on the web looking for free video content for the I-Pods. By offering a variety of Jazz content, in this format, we're going to reach a lot of people who've never even heard Jazz.

Check out Billy Taylor's Video Podcasts.

 

In early December, Billy took part in the Annual Jazz Piano Christmas, joining Slide Hampton, Daniela Schachter, Hilton Ruiz (at left), Dave Samuels and Pete Escovedo in a program of Christmas favorites. The concert playlist include: A playlist of the concert:
"Let It Snow" - Daniela Schaechter, "Christmas Time Is Here" - Slide Hampton w/ Daniela Schaechter, "Sleigh Ride" - Dave Samuels w/ Pete Escovedo, "Angels We Have Heard on High" - Dave Samuels w/ Pete Escovedo, "Kings of the Orient" - Hilton Ruiz, "Christmas In Old New Orleans" - Marcia Ball, "Boogie Woogie Santa" - Marcia Ball, "Merry Christmas" - Dr. Billy Taylor, "Silent Night" - Round Robin
.

Read the Washington Post Review

The program will be broadcast this month on NPR so check your local NPR station for the schedule.

 

 

 

On December 10, Billy was part of the Celebration for James Moody's 80th Birthday. Mike Joyce wrote in the Washington Post: "At the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater on Saturday night, the irrepressibly lighthearted guest of honor was on a roll, bursting into silly romantic verse ("You are too beautiful for one man alone, so do you mind if I bring along my buddy?"), scat-yodeling like a bebopper with a vacation home in the Swiss Alps, and singing, with all the comic flamboyance he could muster, the male and female parts on his signature song "Moody's Mood for Love." As if to prove he's still the youngest kid at heart on the block, he also updated that classic jazz refrain with an amusingly choreographed hip-hop interlude. And when Moody wasn't laughing, singing, rapping and, yes, playing sax and flute with customary finesse, he blew a blizzard of kisses to all of his friends onstage, including fellow NEA Jazz Masters Jimmy Heath, Billy Taylor and Slide Hampton and Paquito D'Rivera."

 

 

While in DC, Billy also participated in this year's Kennedy Center Honors program, which paid tribute to his good friend, Tony Bennett. Billy reports that "Tony is an old friend and for him to be recognized was very special for me."

 

 

 

And also DC, Billy helped celebrate the opening of the Kennedy Center Family Theatre, where he peforming along with Branford Marsalis. Currently, an adapation of Whoopi Goldberg's "Alice," is being presented.

On Monday, November 14, 2005 at the New York Public Library, Billy was honored with a Library Lion Award.

 

 

 

Dr. Paul LeClerc Awards Medal

 

 

 

 

 


Billy and fellow recipients Mike Nichols, Shirley Hazzard, Thomas Friedman and Harold Bloom.

Photos by Mary Hilliard

Billy Honored with Master's Award at Giants of Jazz Gala

On Saturday, October 15th, the Giants of Jazz honored Billy Taylor. A who's who of Jazz men performed, and then Billy and his Trio played a 45 minute set to climax the event. Billy was enthusiastic about his performance, and spending time with so many old ffriends. He also noted the event featured three of his bass players, Earl May, Paul West and Chip Jackson.

Zan Stewart wrote in the Newark Star Ledger:

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"The annual affair, which has saluted such other masters as Clark Terry, Frank Wess and Benny Powell, also featured the talents of those three. Others on tap included Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, Paquito D'Rivera, Bucky Pizzarelli, Junior Mance, Don Braden, and Taylor's trio mates -- bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper.

Taylor -- who has been a performer at past Giant of Jazz concerts, produced since 1998 by South Orange bassist John Lee to provide for free summer jazz concerts -- said it's "terrific" to be selected.

"So many of these cats I've worked with over the years," he said from his home in Riverdale in the Bronx. "It's fun to hang out with them. It reminds me of the old days when I was in New York, and everybody would be in the back room, telling lies."

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The week of October 6 - NPR's Popular Jazz Set aired Billy's March appearance at the Kennedy Center.

Billy is included in a new book published by Hal Leonard, The 50 Greatest Jazz Pianists of All Time, by Gene Rizzo. And the new issue of JazzTimes has an article about Billy which calls him "Dean of Jazz Ed."

Billy taped a special edition of the new PBS Series, Legends of Jazz, scheduled to air in February, after the IAJE Conference. Billy joined host Ramsey Lewis, and his long-time friend Dave Brubeck in a program featuring Piano Masters. Billy played a scaled down version of his arrangement of "All The Things You Are," and joined Ramsey and Dave for Billy Strayhorn's immortal "Take The A Train."

On October 15, Billy will be honored in a special presentation by John Lee.

Read the Washington Post's review: Mike Joyce wrote: "Part of the Kennedy Center's ongoing series, A New America: The 1940s and the Arts, the concert then turned into a Dizzy Gillespie tribute, with guest trumpeter Jon Faddis joining the trio. Old friends, Faddis and Taylor spent a little time reminiscing about Gillespie's genius and legacy. Mostly, though, they played together while demonstrating Gillespie's gift for transforming pop melodies and sophisticated chords into jazz classics. With his crisp attack and glass-shattering range, Faddis had no trouble evoking Gillespie's bop innovations and early embrace of Afro-Caribbean polyrhythms. Yet the comparatively low-key "Con Alma," with its soulfully muted brass tones, proved particularly expressive. Inevitably, the show ended as it began, the crowd standing and applauding loudly. Taylor will now focus on other jazz pursuits with the same energy, dedication and sense of purpose. Jazz fans everywhere may have a much harder time adapting."

Tenth Annual Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival

The annual Mary Lou William's Women’s Jazz Festival that Billy started at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC had its tenth annual edition from May 19-21and Billy reports that “it was fantastic, one of the best we’ve had yet."

Williams’ music was showcase the second night of the three night event with the Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project, featuring an All-Star Big Band, and the Morgan State University Choir. Vibist Cecilia Smith served as musical director and Billy feels that “she did a wonderful job bringing Mary Lou’s music to life. I was especially touched by hearing Mary Lou's Spiritual music again.”

This year’s festival included a Women in Jazz Pianist Competition and the five finalists got to display their talents in front of Millennium Stage audiences and a jury of renowned international musicians. The five finalists were Rebecca Cline, Miki Hayama, Mary Louise Knutson, Daniela Schaecter, and Ayako Shirasaki. The judges included Billy, Geri Allen, and Philadelphia organ legend, Dr. Trudy Pitts. Daniela Schaecter was chosen as the winner of the competition.

 

 

Read the JazzTimes review

Harlem Speaks

On June 2nd, Billy spoke as part of Harlem Speaks, The Jazz Museum in Harlem’s continuing series venerating the Harlem jazz continuum. Billy had a dialogue with executive director Loren Schoenberg. The lively discussion also included audience participation from many Harlemlites who shared their memories of Billy’s appearances at local clubs, and the emergence of Jazzmobile. Not suprisingly, this very knowledgeable audience recalled many details, most enthusiastically.

More From Washington

In May, Billy received was honored by the Levine School of Music for his contributions to Jazz and music eduication.

The Howard Theatre

While in D.C., where he also works as the Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center, Billy has begun a discussion to bring Washington's classic Howard Theatre National Landmark status. The Q Street temple of music and art was Billy's home away from home as a teenager, where he first heard the big bands of Chick Webb and Duke Ellington. "The Howard," he believes, deserves to be reborn as a performance space, "because it represents such an important part of our history, which is ongoing."

Jazz at Wingspread

In May, Billy participated in the Jazz at Wingspan in Racine, Wisconsin, a conference organized by Marty Ashby of Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and Suzan Jenkins, president of Jazz Alliance International in Washington, D.C.Billy joined Bruce Lundvall, president of Blue Note Records, and David Caffey, chairman of the International Association for Jazz Education, and thirty five other record executives, scholars, producers, media personnel and presenters who gathered for a three-day session at the Wingspread Conference Center. The focus was on developing ways to increase the popularity of jazz, both as a business and art form. Sponsors of the conference include the Johnson Foundation and Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Foundation.

Billy will be participated in a tribute to Percy Heath on June 10th, and at the JVC Festival New York, played in a concert dedicated to pianist Barbara Carroll, on June 21st.

From July 11-22, Billy will led his annual Jazz in July series at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

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The Kennedy Center, to honor Billy’s retirement from concert performance, has just released Billy Taylor's new CD, Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center. The eight live originals are taken from Billy's Kennedy Center series of the same name, broadcast on NPR, and performances that have featured his compositions. Includes:

Taylor Made at the Kennedy CenterBirdwatcher – Billy Taylor, piano; Terence Blanchard, trumpet; Stanley Turrentine, saxophone; Russell Malone, piano; Stefon Harris, vibraphone; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

If You Really Are Concerned – Dee Dee Bridgewater, vocal; Cyrus Chestnut, piano; Stefon Harris, vibraphone; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums; Charles Osgood, Master of Ceremonies

Diz – Arturo Sandoval, trumpet; Steve Turre, trombone; Cyrus Chestnut, piano; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

Theodora – Billy Taylor, piano; Russell Malone, guitar; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

Suite for Jazz Piano and Orchestra – Billy Taylor, piano; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

A Bientot - Billy Taylor, piano; Terence Blanchard, trumpet; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums ------->Listen

Titoro - Billy Taylor, piano; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

Easy Walker - Billy Taylor, piano; Stanley Turrentine, saxophone; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free - Billy Taylor, piano; Chip Jackson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

Buy this CD

 

Young Billy Taylor

 

Read Billy's Memories of 52nd Street from Playbill magazine: "It was an amazing experience to come as a young musician to New York City and be on 52nd Street in 1944. All of my idols--the people I heard on records, on the radio, and in the movies--were right there: Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Artie Shaw, Billy Eckstine, Billie Holiday, Stuff Smith.

My first job was with saxophonist Ben Webster. I thought I had died and gone to heaven because I was playing with one of my all-time favorites. Three days after I arrived in New York, Ben, who had played with Duke Ellington, invited me to join his quartet, which also included drummer Big Sid Catlett and bassist Charlie Drayton. We were playing at the Three Deuces and opening for my idol, pianist Art Tatum! The music we played was the popular music of the day. You could turn on the radio and hear European classical, all kinds of folk, and music from other places, but the popular music of the period was mainly jazz--big band dance music, party music--on the radio at all hours, in the movies, and on the stage--everywhere."

Read the Washington Post's feature article about Billy's retirement: "Billy Taylor joined the Kennedy Center as an artistic adviser in 1994 and went about building a revived presence for jazz in a city from which it had almost disappeared. Clubs vanished, jazz radio all but went off the air, and no one seemed to care. 'Before Billy was here,' says Darrell Ayers, the Kennedy Center's vice president for education and jazz programs, 'the Kennedy Center would have four performances a year in jazz. Now, we're over 150 performances.'"

Read Grammy.com's article about Billy: "A career in jazz that spans seven decades is coming to end on March 31 when the Billy Taylor Trio takes the stage at Kennedy Center — during the Art Tatum Piano Panorama — for their last concert performance. Dr. Taylor announced his retirement last September in Paris at UNESCO ceremonies for International Music Day when he received a lifetime achievement award for his work as an educator. "I thought it would be good to do a performance like this and kind of leave it there," explains Taylor about the feelings that welled up as he played "All The Things You Are" at the UNESCO event, a tune he first played in the City of Lights with the Don Redman Orchestra in 1946. Taylor has spent the last two years working to regain control of his hands and fingers after suffering a stroke — the therapy enabling him not just to play, but to reconstitute his individual approach to jazz piano. But he felt the time was right to retire and gave notice to his sidemen, bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper..."

AWARDS - Grammy and Beacons of Jazz

At the 2005 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Billy recieved the Recording Academy® (NARAS) Trustees Award. The Trustees Awards recognizes outstanding achievement in a non-performing capacity. "The Awards recognize music people who have made a lasting contribution to culture around the world," said Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy. "The Trustees Awards honor those who have attained legendary status and are profoundly inspiring cultural ambassadors," Portnow said. "Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their craft have created a timeless legacy that has positively affected multiple generations...and generations to come," he concluded.

 

On February 22, Dr. Taylor was honored at a gala for the New School University’s 2005 Beacons In Jazz Awards in The Grand Ballroom at The Pierre in New York City. The Beacons In Jazz award recognizes living musicians and contributors to the field whose work and extraordinary talent have uniquely enriched our musical heritage.

 

Representative Charles Rangel, Reggie Workman and Billy.

 


 


Photo Credit: Michael Divito

 

 

Billy and James Jordan.

 

 


Photo Credit: Michael Divito

IAJE

Billy attended the annual IAJE Conference in Long Beach, CA from January 5-8. At the NEA Jazz Masters concert, he played a solo piano version of All The Things You Are. He also moderated a panel entitled Jazz By Us For Us, with guests Waymer Johnson from BET Jazz, Thurston Briscoe of WBGO and Jim Winston of the NABOB, and hosted another panel that focused on Kennedy Center Jazz.

Billy and Thurston Briscoe.
Photo: Stuart Brinin

Billy's booth showcased this website, with a giant forty inch plasma screen for visitors to interact with the content. Visitors included:

Vocalist Vanessa Rubin

Carroll V. Dashiell, Jr of East Carolina University

Ghenady Meirson of Private Lesssons.com

Billy blesses Al Julian, Concord Records' A&R Representative


Veteran drummer Ed Thigpen

Billy Taylor Announces His Retirement from Performing

Dr. Taylor made the announcement October 1st while in Paris to receive a Life-Time Achievement from UNESCO as part of the International Music Day: “Jazz Meets The World: A Tribute to Jazz in Education.” Although Dr. Taylor will no longer be accepting engagements with his Trio or as a Guest Artist, he will continue his activities as Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and as the Principal Artist in Residence of the Jazz in July program at the University of Massachusetts, as well as many other clinics and other educational activities on behalf of Jazz.

Although he’d been considering this change in his agenda for some time, it was Dr. Taylor’s visit to Paris that served as the catalyst for this decision. “I’ve always wanted to stop performing publicly when I was still feeling good about my playing,” he explains. “I didn’t want to hang around until I felt bad.”

“I remember when Lionel Hampton was very ill, toward the end of his life. The people around him let him perform although he couldn’t really play. He’d just tap on the vibraphone and smile. He felt good and I’m sure that added some time to his life. But I didn’t want to do that.”

“In Paris, I was really feeling good, physically, and also, when I played I was very pleased. At the concert for UNESCO, I played All The Things You Are. I had first performed that song in 1946 in Paris, during my initial European tour with Don Redman and I chose that composition because I wanted to see how it would work. I played it, and people really responded. That’s when I knew the timing was right.”

Although a stroke in 2001 forced Billy to return to the woodshed, his playing since his re-entry to the music full-time two years ago has continued to improve, dramatically. “When I found out I couldn’t play the piano, after the stroke, it was the shock of my life. I’ve spent so many years trying to play well, then all of sudden, zap, it’s gone. I said wow. So for the last couple of years, I’ve been on a mission to get it back.”

Not surprisingly, given the persistence and talent of this remarkable man, Dr. Taylor was able to regain his chops. “I can play anything I used to play, but not as fast. But I can play it. So the past few years, I focused on getting my playing as good as I could make it. The audience has always been my barometer. If I can reach out and touch someone when I play, I know it’s working. So in Paris, it was working. In fact, I couldn’t have done it any better than I did.”

One thing he will miss, Dr. Taylor explains, “is the joy of regular collaboration with my working Trio (bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper). I’ve always put a lot of pressure upon myself. That’s the one habit I couldn’t break. But when I was performing, these guys made it a lot easier. Both of them are really special, both as performing artists, and friends.”

 

 

Billy, Roy Haynes and Melba Joyce attend Jazz at Lincoln Center's Gala Opening Night Party (Photo: Keith Bendis)

 

 

 

 

Veritas Honors Billy

At this year's Veritas Therapeutic Community Foundation Inc.'s Friends of Charlie Parker Annual Benefit for Drug Rehabilitation Programs, their 25th anniversary celebration, held on September 30th at Manhattan Center, Billy was honored with a Distinguished Achievement Award for his contributions to Jazz and for his support of the program. In addition to Billy, writers Stanley Crouch, Bob Herbert, and Health Care professional G. Boyajy were also honored.

Billy accepts the award from the late Peter Jennings, at the Veritas Benefit.
Photo: Norm Harris

UNESCO's Lifetime Achievement Award

On October 1st, Billy was honored in Paris by UNESCO as part of the International Music Day "Jazz Meets The World: A Tribute to Jazz in Education." Dr. Taylor was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, along with saxophone master Johnny Griffin and French pianists Martial Solal and Michel Sardaby. A special concert that evening featured Dr. Nathan Davis, Jon Faddis Maurice Brown, Griffin, Billy Cobham, and Billy, performing "All The Things You Are."

Things Go Better with Coke

Coca-Cola licensed Billy's classic I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, for use in the North, Central and South America, Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom. It has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. The commercial has been featured in the US on American Idol, and in movie theatres and Coca-Cola theme parks. You can watch the North American version of the commerical on the Coke website. The English language version is sung by Charlene Hector of the English group, Basement Jaxx.

Billy Taylor's Soundpost Records Reacquires Taylor-Made Records

Billy Taylor’s Soundpost Records has re-acquired Taylor-Made Recordings, a label Dr. Taylor founded in the late 1980s. Four re-issues from Taylor-Made’s catalogue are now available: Billy Taylor Solo, The Billy Taylor Trio White Nights in Leningrad, and You Tempt Me, and The JazzMobile All-Stars.

These Taylor-Made releases will now be available for sale here as well as in select retail outlets. Buyers who purchase the recordings on this site will receive a personallly autographed copy from Dr. Taylor.

These classic CDs, recorded from 1988 – 1989, feature Billy Taylor at the height of his remarkable keyboard prowess.

 

The Billy Taylor Trio- White Nights in Leningrad, was recorded in August of 1988, and features Dr. Taylor with bassist Victor Gaskin and drummer Bobby Thomas. Billy’s Trio made this recording after returning from a tour of the Soviet Union with the title, a reference to the nights filled with sunlight they experienced.

 

 

Other than a pair of obscure albums from 1956, Billy Taylor Solo, also recorded in August of 1988, was his first solo piano recording. Seven originals are included in the CDs thirteen tracks, including a haunting version of Dr. Taylor’s “A Bientot,” Billy’s theme song from his days on DJ on New York’s WLIB.

 

 

You Tempt Me, another Trio offering, was recorded in 1989, with Victor Gaskin on bass, and Curtis Boyd on drums. In addition to Dr. Taylor’s unique interpretation of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take The A Train,” the recording includes eight originals taken from sacred music he wrote, “Let Us Make A Joyful Noise,” inspired by Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts.

 

 

The Jazzmobile All-Stars, was also recorded in 1989 and features a truly all-star lineup, including Dr. Taylor on piano, Frank Wess on tenor and soprano sax and flute, Jimmy Owens on trumpet, Ted Dunbar on guitar, Victor Gaskin on bass on Bobby Thomas on drums. The group takes its name from Jazzmobile, the Harlem performance/education program Dr. Taylor founded in 1964.

 

Billy Plays for President Bush


The Billy Taylor Trio performed for President and Mrs. Bush and guests during a formal celebration at the White House on Tuesday, June 22.

The program, A Salute To NEA Jazz Masters, to celebrate June as Black Music Month, began with opening remarks by President Bush that acknowledged the rich legacy of Black music in American culture. President Bush then introduced Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.


Photo: Vance Jacobs

Mr. Gioia spoke on behalf of the NEA Jazz Masters Program, the nation¹s highest lifetime achievement honor in jazz since 1982. In addition to NEA Jazz Master 1988 Dr. Billy Taylor, other NEA Jazz Masters were in attendance, such as NEA Jazz Master 2004 Chico Hamilton, NEA Jazz Master 2000 David Baker, and NEA Jazz Master 1998 James Moody.

Students from Billy's "Jazz and the New Generation" program, at the Kennedy Center, also performed under Billy's direction.

 

President Bush listens to the "Jazz and the New Generation" students perform in the East Room of the White House. The students are, from left, saxaphonist Matt Marantz of Cedar Hills, Texas, bassist Philip Kuehn, of Lucerne Mines, Penn., vocalist Crystal Torres, Toronto, Canada and violinist Caley Monahon-Ward, Florence, Mass.

 


Click here
to visit the official White House site, to read the President's remarks, and watch a video of his speech.

St. Lucia Jazz Festival

On May 13, Billy's Trio headlined at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, on the beautiful island of St. Lucia. The Trio played opposite James Carter. Read the All About jazz review.

National Arts Club

On April 26, Billy was honored by the National Arts Club in New York, with their prestigous Medal of Honor Award.

 

Dr. Billy Taylor accepts the NAC Gold Medal from President O. Aldon James

 

 


Mrs. Theodora Taylor, Dr. Billy Taylor, their son-in-law and daughter, Professor Anthony C. Thompson and Professor Kim Taylor-Thompson of NYU Law School

 


Photos courtesy National Arts Club

For more great photos, including special guests Frank Wess, Marian McParland, Jon Faddis, Barbara Carroll and others who came to pay tribute to Billy, please visit their website.