Pianist Billy Taylor to Retire From Performing

Classic Arts News   Pianist Billy Taylor to Retire From Performing
Jazz pianist and educator Billy Taylor will give his last performance on March 31, 2005, according to a statement on his web site.

Taylor announced his retirement on October 1 in Paris, where he received a lifetime achievement award from UNESCO. The 83-year-old Taylor will continue to serve as artistic advisor for jazz at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and to teach at the University of Massachusetts.

The pianist and his trio, with guest trumpeter Jon Faddis, will make their final appearance as part of the Kennedy Center's Art Tatum Piano Panorama Series. The trio is also scheduled to perform at Detroit's Symphony Hall on November 19.

Taylor said in the statement that he was pleased to be able to retire with his abilities intact. "I've always wanted to stop performing publicly when I was still feeling good about my playing," he said. "I didn't want to hang around until I felt bad."

Since suffering a stroke in 2001, Taylor has worked to return his playing to its former level. "I can play anything I used to play, but not as fast," he said. "If I can reach out and touch somebody when I play, I know it's working."

Taylor began his 60-year career with the Ben Webster Quartet. In 1951, he became the house pianist at Birdland, and began to lead his own trio shortly thereafter. He has also served as a highly influential teacher and ambassador for jazz, most prominently in a radio series for National Public Radio and on the television program CBS Sunday Morning.

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