*Jazz pianist and media personality Billy Taylor died of a heart attack in New York City Tuesday (Dec. 28), The Washington Post reported Wednesday. He was 89.
Taylor, who grew up in Washington and moved to New York City in the early 1940s, played alongside Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. He was also a protégé of Art Tatum.
In 1958, he became the musical director of NBC’s television series “The Subject is Jazz.” [Watch below.] He profiled more than 250 artists as an on-air correspondent for “CBS News Sunday Morning” and received an Emmy Award for his segment on Quincy Jones. He also hosted the NPR series “Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.”
Taylor was the artistic adviser for jazz programming at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where he often performed with his own trio and other groups and launched the annual Women in Jazz Festival, according to The Washington Post.
Taylor received such awards as the National Medal of Arts and was designated a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988.
Below, Billy’s Taylor’s unique version of Duke Ellington’s theme song, written by Billy Strayhorn, from a live gig in 2001 featuring Billy on piano, Chip Jackson on bass and Steve Johns on drums.
Below, Billy Taylor explains jazz improvisation on the 1958 TV show “The Subject is Jazz.”