Billy Taylor Jr., one of the best known jazz bass players in the Washington area, died Tuesday night at Veterans Administration Hospital after a long illness. He was 50.
A popular figure, whose steady bass work was in constant demand by bandleaders, Mr. Taylor performed around Washington for 27 years. From 1956 to 1964, he played in the house band at the Howard Theater.
He later played in the Eddie Phyfe Trio at the old Cafe Lounge and with the John Phillips Trio at Blues Alley. His most recent job was with the Dick Morgan Trio at W. H. Bone and Co.
The bassist also toured with pianist Eddie Heywood in the 1940s when the latter was popular.
Musicians were unanimous in their praise of Mr. Taylor. Rick Henderson, leader of the Howard Theater house band that included Mr. Taylor, said: "He was a first-rate musician. As a man, he was an exceptional human being who carried the beautiful qualities of joy and love with him all the time."
Just last Sunday night, about 500 people turned out for a benefit concert at the Shoreham Hotel to pay tribute to the musician.
William A. Taylor Jr. was born Dec. 31, 1925, in Washington. While still in elementary school, he went to live in New York.
As a teenager, he began frequenting jazz clubs in Brooklyn and associating with then-fledgling musicians such, as Max Roach and Cecil Payne. Unbeknownst to his father, Billy Taylor Sr., who was bassist with Duke Ellington, the younger man taught himself to play bass.
Mr. Taylor worked at Minton's Playhouse, a Harlem club where musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillispie jammed and created modern jazz.
The musician also served in the Army from 1944 to 1948.
Returning to Washington in 1950, the bassist began performing at clubs around the city and went to work at the Department of the Interior.
Survivors include his wife, Marion, of the home in Fairfax; seven children, Isabel Alexander, Douglas, Stephen, Michelle, Clarence, Frank Lucas and Kirk Lucas; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. William A. Taylor Sr., two brothers, twosisters and four grandchildren.