Billy Taylor (born July 24, 1921 in Greenville, North Carolina) is an American jazz pianist, composer, and educator. He is currently the Robert L. Jones Distinguished Professor of Music at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Since 1994, he has been the artistic director for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
In 1964, Dr. Billy Taylor founded New York'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 1960's,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 Union, 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.
|1999||Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center|
with Dee Dee Bridgewater
|Jazz||Kennedy Center Jazz|
|1993||Live at MCG||Jazz||Manchester Craftsman Guild|
|1991||White Nights and Jazz in Leningrad||Jazz||Taylor Made|
|1977||Live at Storyville||Jazz||West 54|
|1959||Billy Taylor with Four Flutes||Jazz||Riverside|
|1957||My Fair Lady Loves Jazz||Jazz||GRP|
|1945||Billy Taylor Piano||Jazz||Savoy|