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Billy Taylor (born July 24, 1921 in Greenville, North Carolinamarker) is an Americanmarker jazz pianist, composer, and educator. He is currently the Robert L. Jones Distinguished Professor of Music at East Carolina Universitymarker in Greenville. Since 1994, he has been the artistic director for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsmarker in Washington, D.C.


Taylor was born in Greenville, but moved to Washington, D.C.marker when he was 5. He graduated from Virginia State College with a B.S. in Music in 1942, and has been playing piano professionally since 1944, starting with Ben Webster's Quartet on New York's 52nd Street. He later became the house pianist at Birdland, where he performed with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. He was a protege of jazz pianist Art Tatum. In 1958, he was the Musical Director of NBC's The Subject Is Jazz, the first ever television series on the subject of jazz.

In 1964, Dr. Billy Taylor founded New Yorkmarker's Jazzmobile, which provides arts education program of the highest quality via workshops, master classes, lecture demonstrations, arts enrichment programs, outdoor summer mobile concerts, special indoor concerts and special projects. During the 1960s,the Billy Taylor Trio was a regular feature of the Hickory House on West 55th street in Manhattan In 1981, Jazzmobile produced a Jazz special for the National Public Radio, and for which the program received the Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting Programs. Jazzmobile's 1990 Tribute Concert to Dr. Taylor at Avery Fisher Hall, part of the JVC Jazz Festival, featured Nancy Wilson, Ahmad Jamal Trio and Terence Blanchard Quintet.

Among his most notable works is "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free", composed in 1954, and subsequently achieving more popularity with Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Nina Simone covered the song in her 1967 album Silk and Soul. It is widely known in the UK as a piano instrumental version, used for BBC1's Film programme, hosted by Barry Norman and subsequently Jonathan Ross. Derek Trucks, The Lighthouse Family and Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra have also recorded versions.

In 1989, Billy Taylor started his own "Taylor Made" record label to document his own music, releasing four albums, You Tempt Me (1996) is a strong outing by his 1985 trio (with Victor Gaskin and drummer Curtis Boyd) that includes a rendition of Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train". White Nights (1991) has Taylor, Gaskin, and drummer Bobby Thomas performing live from Leningrad in the Soviet Unionmarker, than came Solo (1992), and Jazzmobile Allstars (1992).

With over twenty three honorary doctoral degrees, Dr. Billy Taylor is also the recipient of two Peabody Awards, NEA Jazz Masters Award (1998) an Emmy Award (1983) for "Outstanding Informational, Cultural or Historical Programming", a Grammy Award (2004) and a host of prestigious and highly coveted prizes, such as the National Medal of Arts (1992), the Tiffany Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Down Beat Magazine. He was also honored in 2001 with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Jazz Living Legend Award, and election to the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education.

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.

Billy Taylor also worked as a DJ on radio station WNEW in New York in the 60's.

Humanitarian Causes

Dr. Billy Taylor sits on the Honorary Founders Board of The Jazz Foundation of America. In 1989 Billy Taylor, Ann Ruckert and Herb Storfer, Phoebe Jacobs started The Jazz Foundation to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians including musicians that survived Hurricane Katrina.


Year Title Genre Label Personnel
1999 Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center
with Dee Dee Bridgewater
Jazz Kennedy Center Jazz
1993 Live at MCG Jazz Manchester Craftsman Guild
1993 Dr. T Jazz GRP
1992 Solo Jazz Taylor Made
1991 White Nights and Jazz in Leningrad Jazz Taylor Made
1977 Live at Storyville Jazz West 54
1962 Impromptu Jazz Mercury
1959 Billy Taylor with Four Flutes Jazz Riverside Herbie Mann, Jerome Richardson, Frank Wess
1957 My Fair Lady Loves Jazz Jazz GRP
1956 Cross Section Jazz Prestige
1945 Billy Taylor Piano Jazz Savoy


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