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'Billy Taylor's Diz,' with Jon Faddis, at Kennedy Center

A generation of musicians learned "Take the A Train" for the same reason that Billy Strayhorn wrote it. The lyrics give the directions to Duke Ellington's home in Harlem.

Jon Faddis, foreground, and Billy Taylor

Billy Taylor went to New York to find Ellington and Art Tatum, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and a life in music that eventually touched NPR listeners for 25 years, from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s. Taylor was the founder and host of NPR's Jazz Alive!, Taylor-Made Piano and Jazz at the Kennedy Center.

This week, JazzSet takes you Taylor's retirement from the concert stage, taking place at the Kennedy Center, where he is (and remains) Artistic Advisor for Jazz. Taylor invites trumpeter Jon Faddis to share the stage to celebrate a mutual hero, Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993). Between tunes, Jon describes his first and second meetings with Diz. After feeling that he didn't take full advantage of the first meeting, 15-year-old Jon brought his entire Dizzy collection -- dozens of LPs -- to the second meeting. Dizzy patiently autographed each one, and claimed not to remember recording several.

Gillespie had a great sense of humor and, clearly, both Taylor and Faddis love remembering Diz. Billy credits him for moving jazz close to Latin music, and advancing jazz harmony. Dizzy's compositions are the heart of this set.

At the end, Taylor closes his farewell with "Take the A Train," played very slowly, at the tempo he discovered when he played "A Train" at the composer's funeral. Thank you for every note, Billy. Dee Dee Bridgewater and everyone at JazzSet hope that you're at work on your autobiography.


Billy Taylor and Jon Faddis
"The Man I Love" from the mid 1980s at Jazz 88, WBGO, Newark (George and Ira Gershwin, New World Music Company, ASCAP)
"Diz" (by Billy Taylor, ASCAP)
"Woodyn You" (Dizzie Gillespie, Edwin H. Morris & Co., Inc., ASCAP)
"A Night in Tunisia" (Gillespie and Paparelli, Universal MCA Music Publishing, ASCAP)
"Con Alma" (Gillespie, Dizlo Music Corporation, ASCAP)
"Take the A Train" (Billy Strayhorn, Billy Strayhorn Songs, ASCAP)


Dr. Billy Taylor, piano

1980s Trio:
Victor Gaskin, bass
Bobby Thomas, drums

2000s Trio: Chip Jackson, bass
Winard Harper, drums

Jon Faddis, guest trumpeter


  • Billy Taylor's Official Web site

  • Jon Faddis at Dizzie
  • Kennedy Center Jazz Season
  • Dizzie Gillespie All-Star Band

    Recording by Greg Hartman of Big Mo (link) with Chris Weal
    Kennedy Center Jazz Program Manager Kevin Struthers with Sean Costello, Jean Thill, Wesley R. Taylor
    Thanks to Darrell Ayres
    Technical Director Duke Markos
    Producer Becca Pulliam
    Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III

    Copyright 2007 NPR