WBGO Blog
  • Taylor's Take Six: Bill May Photo Gallery

    July 24, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: billy taylor

    The following is the sixth 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.

    Photographer Bill May was on hand to capture many memorable moments at in the WBGO studios in the eighties and nineties, including the visit from Dr. Billy Taylor with bassist Victor Gaskin and drummer Bobby Thomas to inaugurate our new Steinway piano on November 1, 1987. Enjoy his beautiful and candid portraits of Dr. T!

    Photos by Bill May

  • Taylor's Take Five: Dee Dee Serenades Dr. T

    July 24, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: billy taylor

    The following is the fifth in our series of tributes to Dr. Billy Taylor, part of our online 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.

    Take Five: Dee Dee Serenades Dr. T



    Dee Dee Serenades Doctor T
    Dee Dee Serenades Doctor T

    In 2001, Dr. Billy Taylor was slated to perform with Dee Dee Bridgewater at the Kennedy Center on his 80th birthday, but was forced to cancel as he recovered from illness.

    In this moving tribute, Bridgewater and her band of Stefon Harris, Cyrus Chestnut, Chip Jackson, and Winard Harper serenade Dr. T on his 80th birthday with their version of his composition "If You Really Are Concerned." The piece comes from a suite, Peaceful Warrior, which the Atlanta Symphony commissioned Taylor to write in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

    Taylor's inspiration for the piece was a conversation he once overheard when a woman from Connecticut asked King what she could do to support the Civil Rights movement.

    "If you are really concerned, then you should show it and you can show it where you are," King told the woman. In many ways, this phrase encapsulates Taylor's own spirit of activism.

    The second verse goes like this:

    If you really are concerned, then speak up
    You can demonstrate your point of view
    But you've got to get involved
    With pressing problems closest to you
    If you want to change this world.

    To read more about Taylor's relationship with Dr. King, click here. To hear this audio, click on the link below, courtesy of JazzSet:

  • Taylor's Take Four: Jazz in July

    July 23, 2011. Posted by Alex Rodriguez.

    Add new comment | Filed under: billy taylor

    The following is the fourth in our series of tributes to Dr. Billy Taylor, which are part of our 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.

    "I think he liked this place, and it shows."

    - Dr. Fred Tillis, on Dr. Billy Taylor's legacy at the University of Massachusetts

    In our last post, Al Pryor explained how the ideas Billy Taylor developed at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the early seventies helped inspire the creation of WBGO as NPR's first all-jazz station in 1979.

    Taylor's ideas still live on in Amherst, where the summer jazz camp he founded, Jazz in July, celebrated its 30th anniversary this week. Working alongside his doctoral advisor, Dr. Fred Tillis, Taylor helped round up a stellar artist faculty for the program, and had a hand in designing the curriculum.

    Indeed, Dr. Taylor brought some very strong opinions to bear on crafting a curriculum for the the jazz camp. "For one," explained Tillis, "he insisted that it be two weeks, and I’m glad that he did, because it’s so wonderful to watch the development of the students in the second week."

    Even when Taylor's playing was limited after he suffered a stroke in 2001, he continued to come to UMass as a lecturer and curator of the University's "Lively Arts" educational series.

    Indeed, the talent and progress that students make over the course of a week is palpable – I play trombone, and had the good fortune to sit in with one of the groups on Friday. The ensemble was coached by Steve Johns, who joined the Jazz in July faculty in 1994 when he started playing with Dr. Taylor's working trio.

    "The trio was always in residence here two weeks a year," Johns explained, "It kind of came with the gig." His son Daryl has become a regular at the camp, which has helped him turn into one of the country's most promising young jazz bassists.

    In the workshop, we stormed through some ambitious repertoire - John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Don Cherry, and one of Johns's originals - and had a great time in the process. For all the work Johns puts into coaching the group, he still attributes much of the program's success to Taylor, insisting, "Dr. Taylor's presence is still the heart and soul of this program."

    Jazz in July Festival Director Frank Newton also recognizes Taylor's impact, even though he never had the chance to meet the legendary pianist in person.

    "What I always take from Dr. Taylor's approach," he said, "is to always put forth that this is a service to the art -- the art of music, the art of jazz, the art of music, the art of jazz, the art of improvisation."