WBGO Blog
  • Taylor's Take Nine: With Gary on Big Ben and Mary Lou

    July 25, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: billy taylor

    The following is the ninth in our series of tributes to Dr. Billy Taylor, part of our birthday celebration of "Doctor T," who would have turned ninety this Sunday, July 24. Check wbgo.org/billytaylor for our full tribute page, which includes more clips and our exclusive webcast of Billy Taylor: A Life In Jazz, a new video documentary by Bret Primack.

    Take Nine: Billy with Gary on Big Ben and Mary Lou

    Gary Walker had the good fortune to interview Dr. Billy Taylor several times in the WBGO studios over the years. Even better, the pair nearly always sat at the piano for these conversations, which are peppered with Dr. T's spontaneous musical observations and memories.

    Gary Walker
    Gary Walker

    In an earlier post, we presented Taylor's 2009 tribute to his friend and mentor Art Tatum. In this 1995 conversation, Taylor speaks with Gary about his admiration for Mary Lou Williams, and how on his first night in New York, Ben Webster picked him out of the crowd of piano players at a jam session at Minton's Playhouse and hired him for his first big-city gig.

    "Billy Taylor was a treasure," Gary recalls. "His friendly demeanor demanded the understanding of a life enriched by the arts. His purpose took him around the world. How lucky we were that his home was jazz."

    To hear audio from this conversation, click on the link below. Enjoy!

  • Taylor's Take Eight: Billy The Broadcaster

    July 24, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: billy taylor

    The following is the eighth in our series of tributes to Dr. Billy Taylor, part of our birthday celebration of "Doctor T," who would have turned ninety this Sunday, July 24. Check wbgo.org/billytaylor for our full tribute page, which includes more clips and our exclusive webcast of Billy Taylor: A Life In Jazz, a new video documentary by Bret Primack.

    Take Eight: Billy The Broadcaster

    Billy Taylor's success as a broadcaster brought him - and jazz - into living rooms across the United States. Starting in 1958 with The Subject is Jazz, then on The David Frost Show and CBS Sunday Morning, Taylor was the first to introduce jazz through television to mainstream audiences, and he reached radio listeners  as a disk jockey for WLIB and WNEW.

    BT On The Air
    BT Is On The Air

    Indeed, he became so well known to audiences as a broadcaster, that some didn't realize that he had an equally hard-earned reputation as a pianist!

    Starting in 1975 with Jazz Waves, Taylor worked tirelessly to create a home for jazz at National Public Radio at a time when it was increasingly absent from commercial radio. These shows, which incorporated perforamance and commentary, also set the record straight about his own musical skills.

    "NPR was like the light at the end of the tunnel," he told singer Nancy Wilson, the host of Jazz Profiles. "It was a way to keep jazz alive."

    In 1977 he got his own show, Jazz Alive!, which he followed with Taylor-Made Piano and finally Jazz at the Kennedy Center. He hosted many jazz specials, such as the annual Toast of the Nation New Years' Eve celebrations. In all, Taylor created hundreds of hours of jazz broadcasts for public radio.

    On the 25th anniversary of his first NPR broadcast,  Jazz Profiles produced a special portrait of Dr. T, which contains many excerpts from his career on the air.

    Of course, 25 years was only half the story - for by the time of his death in 2010, he had been a broadcaster for more than fifty years!

    To hear the audio of this program, click here:

  • Taylor's Take Seven: Bill and Diz

    July 24, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: billy taylor
    Bill and Diz
    Bill remembers Diz

    The following is the seventh in our series of tributes to Dr. Billy Taylor, part of our birthday celebration of "Doctor T," who would have turned ninety this Sunday. Check wbgo.org/billytaylor for our full tribute page, which includes more clips and our exclusive webcast of Billy Taylor: A Life In Jazz, a new video documentary by Bret Primack.

    For his retirement concert at the Kennedy Center on March 31, 2005, Doctor T characteristically chose to honor someone else: in this case his close friend John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. And, as his special guest trumpeter Jon Faddis  notes from the stage, Taylor does not sound like a retiree; he sounds lively and delighted to play.

    In the concert, Taylor invites Faddis to share the stage to play some of Gillespie's most memorable compositions. Taylor and Gillespie shared a passion for Latin music, and Dr. T credits Gillespie for moving jazz closer to its counterparts in Latin America and for advancing jazz harmony.

    Gillespie compositions are the heart of this set. Then, at the end, Taylor closes with "Take the 'A' Train," played very slowly, at the tempo he discovered when he played the tune at composer Billy Strayhorn's funeral.

    To hear the audio from this performance, click on the link below. Enjoy!