Pianist, educator, broadcaster and author, Billy Taylor will bring something personal to National Public Radio's "Taylor Made Piano: A Jazz History With Dr. Billy Taylor." Over the years, he has known many of the keyboard artists he will discuss and whose work he'll present, both in recordings and in his own live performances. Beginning next Saturday at midnight the series will air locally on WAMU-FM and will take the listener from ragtime to contemporary jazz piano in 13 hour-long programs.
From Provo, Utah, Taylor spoke about his friendship with the late pianist Art Tatum. "The first time I met him was in 1944 when I auditioned for Ben Webster at the Three Deuces in New York and his was the other group. He was just a marvelous friend and would tell people from time to time, 'Hey, there's this kid that plays piano and he's pretty good. You ought to give him a job.' " When Tatum finished work he liked to "hang out and listen to other players and drink beer." And Taylor would sometimes accompany him to other nightspots. "He wouldn't even show up until 1 or 2 in the morning and by the time he got there all the heavies would be shootin' their best shots. After everybody had played he'd get up and give a master class on how it should be done. The clubs officially closed at 4. But they just locked the door. Nobody could get in, but the place was full of people."