Born in 1921 in Greenville, N.C., Billy Taylor moved to Washington, D.C., at age 5. He grew up in a musical family and tried his hand at various musical instruments, including guitar, drums and saxophone, but was most successful at the piano.
The next time you go to see live jazz in a club, and the band is playing original compositions, look closely in front of the musicians. Sometimes there'll be stands holding sheet music. There's nothing wrong with this per se, especially if the music is a bit complicated. But sometimes there'll be no need for stands, as the musicians have memorized the material. It's impressive, but it also signals a certain commitment, one borne of having rehearsed and performed together often. You frequently see this in tight bands that know what they're doing.
Professing love for Bob James' music can yield a side-eye in some circles. Jazz purists routinely view the keyboardist's 1970s period as a progenitor to smooth jazz — an idiom they frequently react to as if it were a sign of the apocalypse.
In New Orleans, it's cool to be in the high school band — especially when Trombone Shorty shows up in the band room.
The brass player and bandleader recently paid a visit to New Orleans' Warren Easton High School to work with band members. It's part of his work with the Trombone Shorty Foundation, a music education initiative.
"[Trombone Shorty] is, without a doubt, the role model for the next generation right now," says Bill Taylor, the foundation's executive director.
Jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal started playing when he was 3 years old in Pittsburgh, which means he's now been playing for 80 years. His new album, Saturday Morning, often recalls his elegant trios of yesteryear, with its tightly synchronized arrangements, plenty of open space and deceptively simple charm.