Billy Taylor, a pianist and composer who was also an eloquent spokesman and advocate for jazz as well as a familiar presence for many years on television and radio, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 89 and lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
The cause was heart failure, said his daughter, Kim Taylor-Thompson, according to New York Times.
Taylor was born in 1921 in North Carolina and grew up in Washington. He arrived in New York in 1943 and quickly made a name for himself playing alongside the best, including Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
Taylor was a rare personality who was equally good at talking about jazz as he was playing it, and began actively erasing the public impression of jazz musicians of the time as uneducated and ignorant.
As Taylor's professional career blossomed, he used it as leverage to explore a love equal to performing: teaching. Taylor, who earned a doctorate in musical education in 1975 and soon became best-known as Dr. Taylor, was widely considered the pre-eminent teacher of his time. Even his performances often felt as a mixture between music and engaging lecture, Spinner reports.