Today is Billy Taylor’s 88th brthday. It has not gone unnoticed by his publicists that, coincidentally, the piano has 88 keys. Appropriately, they have posted on his web site 88 videos of Taylor playing in a variety of contexts; speaking informatively on CBS Sunday Morning, where for years he did commentary; and being interviewed by Charles Kuralt, Charlie Rose, Charles Osgood and William F. Buckley, Jr., among others.
It is worth noting that Taylor and Dave Brubeck have long maintained a mutual admiration society. Brubeck is also 88, and one of those web site videos brings us the two of them playing 176 keys. Michael Moore is the bassist, Randy Jones the drummer.
“Take The ‘A’ Train,” which you just heard, was Duke Ellington’s theme song. Taylor and Brubeck were guest pianists at the 70th birthday party President Richard Nixon threw for Ellington at the White House in 1969. I happened to be standing nearby at the afternoon rehearsal in the East Room when a photographer asked the two of them to pose together. Taylor said, “Sure, something might rub off,” eliciting a wide grin from Brubeck.
Happy Birthday, Billy.