Artist's Biography

Dr. Billy Taylor

Tuned in concert..Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (Fall 1987)


Dr. Billy Taylor's multifaceted career has brought him before the public as a pianist, composer, author, teacher, lecturer, actor, and radio and television personality. Recently appointed Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center, Dr. Taylor stars in a 26-part series of demonstration discussions of the history of jazz. "Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center" is a series of NPR radio programs that debuted in the fall of 1995. A familiar figure to television viewers, Dr. Taylor has been an arts correspondent for CBS News's "Sunday Morning" for more than 14 years. He hosted the series "Jazz Counterpoint" for Bravo TV, NPR's "Jazz Alive!," "Taylor Made Jazz," and NPR's 13 week "Dizzy's Diamond" celebrating Dizzy Gillespie's seventy-fifth year. Earlier he was host, pianist, and deejay on two influential New York radio stations and musical director of David Frost's first television talk show (1969-72).

 He has toured with such diverse groups as the North Carolina Symphony, the Juilliard and Turtle Island string quartets, the New York Jazz Repertory Company with pianist Ramsey Lewis, and of course, his own Billy Taylor Trio, which with Dr. Taylor at the piano, includes Chip Jackson on bass and Steve Johns on drums. Dr. Taylor's early playing time was spent at clubs along New York's 52nd Street, where he alternated with the foremost jazz pianists of the twentieth century, including Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Bud Powell, Mary Lou Williams, and Duke Ellington. He was house pianist at Birdland, the famed nightclub, where he played with all the greats of the bebop movement. His time on "Swing Street" culminated in an extended engagement at the Hickory House, where he played host to colleagues and fans alike.

 In November 1988 Dr. Taylor's first solo album, Solo, and the first of a series of trio albums titled White Nights and Jazz in Leningrad were released on the TaylorMade label, a subsidiary of Arabesque Recordings. Other Arabesque releases include You Tempt Me and We Meet Again. In 1993, 1994 and 1995 the GRP label released Dr. T, It's a Matter of Pride, and Homage, respectively. His landmark My Fair Lady Loves Jazz with the 1956 Billy Taylor Trio and an allstar band arranged by Quincy Jones, has recently been reissued.

 Dr. Taylor's importance to jazz is demonstrated by his ongoing and leadership of Jazzmobile, which brings free performances to thousands of people, and by his membership on the boards of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Arts Council, Meet the Composer, and ASCAP, among others. A guest performer five times at the White House, Dr. Taylor is one of only three jazz musicians ever appointed to the National Council on the Arts. He has been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts with a Jazz Masters Fellowship, by former President Bush with the National Medal of Arts, and by his home state with the North Carolina Prize. His awards also include two Peabodys, and Emmy, and the first Certificate of Recognition given by the U.S. Congressional Arts Caucus. His education doctorate was earned at the University of Massachusetts; he also hold 12 honorary doctorates was well as the Wilber D. Barrett Chair at the University of Massachusetts. An international ambassador for music, Dr. Taylor visited the Soviet Union in 1976 as a member of the International Commission of Distinguished American Composers and Educator and performed in the Third International Music Festival in Leningrad in 1988. He has recently participated in cultural exchanges in Hungary, Mexico City, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Beijing, among others.

 Dr. Taylor's honors include listings in jazz halls of fame, including those of the International Association of Jazz Educators and Down Beat Magazine, and many other awards too numerous to mention. Dr. Taylor's 1994 composition "Step Into My Dream" was commissioned for the Parsons Dance Company and was performed on tour in the Spring of 1995 by the company with the Billy Taylor Trio.


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