There were three artists who, over time, made me a jazz fan. There was Joe Williams, a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, whose baritone voice was as smooth as silk and as rich as dark chocolate. There was Oscar Brown, Jr., host of the 80s PBS series "From Jump Street". And there was Billy Taylor, who seemed ever present as I grew up--first as musical director for David Frost's television show, then as a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning. Billy always exuded joy, warmth and class, making the case that jazz is America's classical music. Joe Williams died in 1999, Oscar Brown, Jr. in 2005. Billy Taylor passed away on December 28, 2010. I'd have done an obit, here, but I can't add anything to the fine job done by my friend at The Christmas Yuleblog.
As the Ambassador of Jazz (official or unofficial), Billy Taylor of course composed a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Taylor was commissioned to do this by the Atlanta Symphony and the result was "The Peaceful Warrior Suite". There are three parts to the suite, "It's A Matter Of Pride", "If You Really Are Concerned, Then Show It", and "His Name Was Martin". You can stream the Atlanta Symphony version (and read a bit more about it) on Billy's web site. If, like me, you prefer your jazz in a more traditional jazz setting, Billy's compositions for Dr. King are included on the GRP album "It's A Matter Of Pride", featuring the vocals of Grady Tate.
I love Christmas, music, and cats. What more do you need to know?