Billy Taylor

A great teacher and performer, through a very long and productive career

The great jazz pianist and teacher Billy Taylor died yesterday, at age 89. Several months ago I wrote about the late-1950s TV show "The Subject is Jazz," which included this appearance by Taylor. He's at the piano throughout the clip and discusses the history of cool jazz with the host, Gilbert Seldes, starting around time 7:30.

A very nice collection of other Billy Taylor clips on YouTube is here, assembled by Bret Primack, aka "JazzVideoGuy." I like the Seldes one, above, because it shows something amazingly constant about Taylor -- recognizably the same guy in his 30s on that show as he was in appearances in his 70s and 80s, often at the Kennedy Center -- and something amazingly transformed about American culture and American TV, as I think you'll see if you watch even a little of the clip (and as I tried to explain in the earlier post). He was a talented man, with a gracious and charming public presence.

Update: reader TC highlights this offhand observation in the clip, and what it shows about Taylor.

>>"Fundamentally our musicians play modern jazz, and they play it hot or cool as the occasion demands." -- Billy Taylor, quoted by Gilbert Seldes

We should all aspire to such elegance and versatility!<<